Australia will field nine of the players who started in last year’s history-making win over South Africa at Bloemfontein after the Qantas Wallabies combination for Saturday night’s opening Test in the Castrol Edge Tri Nations was named today.
The Qantas Wallabies beat the Springboks 41-39 at Bloemfontein last year to secure Australia’s first win on the high veldt in the Republic for 47 years.
The epic win, which was achieved by a penalty goal from beyond halfway after the final siren, also secured for Australia the Mandela Challenge Plate.
The trophy, which has been contested by the two countries since 2000, will go on the line again when the two teams meet for the first time since that dramatic South African evening, at ANZ Stadium in Sydney this weekend.
NSW Waratahs fullback Kurtley Beale, who held his nerve to kick the penalty goal which won that match, is one of seven changes to the Australian run-on line-up from last Sunday’s Test against Samoa.
Two further newcomers have been included on the bench as Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has strengthened the side from that which played Samoa.
Outside of the return of Beale, the other changes to the run on combination see James O’Connor return to the wing in the place of Rod Davies, flyhalf Quade Cooper and halfback Will Genia replace Matt Giteau and Nick Phipps respectively, while additions in the forward pack see flanker David Pocock and locks James Horwill and Rob Simmons take the places of Matt Hodgson, Nathan Sharpe and Sitaleki Timani.
The return of Pocock, who missed last Sunday’s match to allow a niggly foot injury further time to rehabilitate, should add extra presence to the Australian breakdown, with last year’s John Eales Medal winner having been a major obstacle for South Africa in the past.
Horwill returns to the Australian line-up for the first time since the 33-12 win over Wales at Cardiff which signed off the 2009 Test season, with the Queensland Reds skipper having missed all of last year’s Test campaign after blowing knee ligaments during that year’s Super Rugby competition.
He had played all 14 Tests of the 2009 season.
Horwill will team up in the second row for the first time in the gold jersey with his provincial team-mate, Rob Simmons, after the latter established himself with the Wallabies last year.
Simmons featured four times off the bench during last year’s Tri Nations before significantly starting in Australia’s final two Tests of the Spring Tour, which included the record-breaking 59-16 drubbing of the then Six Nations champions France, in Paris.
The two second rowers were key figures for the Reds during their charge to this year’s Super Rugby title.
After being named last week but forced to withdraw on the eve of the match due to a minor hamstring strain, James O’Connor has recovered and will return to the wing and resume the responsibility for goal-kicking in the Australian side.
His last Test outing for Australia saw the 21-year-old contribute a record 29 points to the humiliation of the French.
O’Connor was cleared after under-going scans yesterday which showed no damage to the hamstring which troubled him last week.
Inside O’Connor in the backline, Cooper and Genia resume their places as Australia’s first choice inside back combination, having assumed those roles through seven of the final eight Tests that the Qantas Wallabies played in 2010.
Queensland Reds hooker Saia Fainga’a has been included on the bench after overcoming a hand injury from the Super Rugby final which kept him out last week.
Twin brother Anthony has also been brought onto the bench, a position from where he has earned three of his four Test caps to date.
Anthony’s most recent Test appearance came against New Zealand at Sydney in the final match of last year’s Tri Nations.
After coming up short last Sunday against the physical Samoans, Deans says his men know they must raise the bar “significantly” on their collective performance.
“Last weekend, our standards were inadequate for what is required at Test level and we paid the price for that,” Deans says.
“There are no short cuts in Test rugby. There is no substitute for rolling up the sleeves and doing the little tasks that, while they might not carry the glamour, are critical for the overall success of the team.
“Last Sunday was a massive wake up call for the group. We can’t turn back the clock on that performance, it will stay with us as a reminder, but we do have total control as to how we respond.
“That is the challenge that we have ahead of us.”
Australia has not won the Tri Nations since 2001 but did beat South Africa in the first match of last year’s series at Brisbane.
Saturday night represents the first appearance by the Springboks in Sydney since 2007.
The Qantas Wallabies side to play South Africa in the opening match of the Castrol Edge Tri Nations Series at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night, kicking off at 8pm [AEST], is:
15. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)
14. James O’Connor (Western Force)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Rocky Elsom (Brumbies, captain)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds)
4. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
Run on Reserves:
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. Pekahou Cowan (Western Force)
18. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
19. Matt Hodgson (Western Force)
20. Scott Higginbotham (Western Force)
21. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
22. Anthony Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)