The Qantas Wallabies have announced their side for Saturday night’s Mandela Plate and Rugby Championship clash against South Africa at Patersons Stadium.
Coach Ewen McKenzie has made three personnel changes to the starting XV with a new playmaking partnership in scrumhalf Nick Phipps and flyhalf Bernard Foley, along with the promotion of hooker James Hanson.
The inclusion of NSW Waratahs duo Phipps and Foley will see Nic White and Kurtley Beale be used as impact players from the bench, while Hanson replaces injured Western Force hooker Nathan Charles after he was ruled out for the remainder of 2014 with a pectoral tear.
The retirement of Pat McCabe has resulted in a further reshuffle of the backline with vice-captain Adam Ashley Cooper shifting back to the wing and Tevita Kuridrani getting a call-up at outside centre.
McKenzie has opted for a forward-heavy 6-2 split on the bench with lock James Horwill returning to the matchday line-up, and Western Force captain Matt Hodgson and Queensland Reds hooker Saia Fainga’a getting their first opportunities for Australia in 2014.
Should Hodgson take the field, it would be his first Test appearance since 23 July, 2011 when he represented the Qantas Wallabies against South Africa.
McKenzie said the changes reflected the different challenge they would face against South Africa.
“While the size of the challenge isn’t any easier this week, the South Africans do play a unique brand of Rugby which we will need to adjust to,” McKenzie said.
“That’s reflected in our selections somewhat, where we feel the partnership of Nick and Bernard will best suit the style of game we’ll be trying to play.
“They’ve got a proven combination at a Super Rugby level and we look forward to seeing how that translates into the Test environment.
“It’s naturally disappointing for the two guys who missed out on the starting team in Nic and Kurtley, but the reality is we have a lot of good players in those playmaking positions.
“We expect them to respond in a positive manner and to make an impact playing an important role in how we close out the match.”
McKenzie said the bench would be important against the South Africans.
“We’ve been really impressed with the variety South Africa has brought to their game in recent times, but traditionally they are a forward-orientated side which uses their size, power and set-piece to put pressure on the opposition,” he said.
“You have to confront that head-on and match fire with fire. The addition of an extra forward also offers us greater flexibility in how we approach our substitutions.
“James has been working really hard to push his way back into the matchday squad, and I’ve been really impressed with how he has gone about his work. He will also bring the added benefit of giving us an additional lineout jumping option when he’s on the field.
“Matt Hodgson also deserves a special mention. He’s been doing everything he can on and off the field to get an opportunity, and has been the ultimate team man in the process. We look forward to seeing what he’ll bring to the match.”
The Qantas Wallabies side to play South Africa in the next Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship and Mandela Plate clash at Patersons Stadium on Saturday 6 September is:
1. James Slipper (vc – Queensland Reds)
2. James Hanson (Queensland Reds)
3. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
4. Sam Carter (ACT Brumbies)
5. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
6. Scott Fardy (ACT Brumbies)
7. Michael Hooper (c – NSW Waratahs)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
9. Nick Phipps (NSW Waratahs)
10. Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs)
11. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)
12. Matt Toomua (ACT Brumbies)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (ACT Brumbies)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (vc – NSW Waratahs)
15. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. Pek Cowan (Western Force)
18. Ben Alexander (ACT Brumbies)
19. James Horwill (Queensland Reds)
20. Scott Higginbotham (Melbourne Rebels)
21. Matt Hodgson (Western Force)
22. Nic White (ACT Brumbies)
23. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)
24th man – Peter Betham (NSW Waratahs)