Rookie hooker Uelese named by Wallabies to face South Africa
PERTH, Australia (AP) — Wallabies coach Michael Cheika created a selection surprise Thursday by naming uncapped hooker Jordan Uelese on the bench for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against South Africa.
Uelese has played only 28 minutes of Super Rugby in his debut season for the Melbourne Rebels, but Cheika felt he had done enough in training to earn a place in the match 23 announced Thursday.
For South Africa, Ross Cronje overcame an ankle injury to win back his place at scrumhalf in South Africa's lineup, also named Thursday.
Cronje established himself as the Springboks' first-choice No. 9 this season but was forced to miss the away victory over Argentina in Salta after sustaining an ankle ligament sprain in the first meeting between the teams at Port Elizabeth.
He now resumes his halfback partnership with flyhalf Elton Jantjies while Francois Hougaard returns to the bench.
Pieter-Steph du Toit returns in place of Franco Mostert at lock in the only other change to the Springboks' starting lineup. Mostert has been rested after a heavy workload this season in what coach Allister Coetzee calls a rotational change.
"Franco has played an enormous amount of rugby at Super Rugby level, playing club rugby in Japan and starting all of our test matches so far this year," Coetzee said. "We have to be sensible in managing the workload of certain players, such as Franco. We are fortunate to have a number of very good locks."
Du Toit, South Africa's player of the year this season, is reunited in the second row with captain Eben Etzebeth, who will play his 60th test on Saturday.
In the only other Springboks change to the match 23 that played at Salta, flyhalf Handre Pollard returns among the reserves for his first appearance in a match-day squad since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
"I am really satisfied with the way (Pollard) has trained till now and it's great for the team to have a player of his caliber on the bench," Coetzee said.
"Even though we traveled to three continents in 10 days, this group has the desire to get better, and learn from previous experiences."
For Australia, veteran Stephen Moore is unavailable pending the birth of his third child and Tatafu Polota-Nau will start at hooker. Uelese, who has played only three Super Rugby games off the bench, is likely to see game time as a replacement.
Winger Dane Haylett-Petty has been ruled out of the Australia lineup with a recurring left biceps injury that requires surgery. Reece Hodge will take his place.
Adam Coleman returns from a shoulder injury to partner Rory Arnold in the second row while center Samu Kerevi has been recalled to the bench after being dropped for the second Bledisloe Cup test against New Zealand in Dunedin.
Australia has lost its first two tests in the Rugby Championship this season — 54-34 and 35-29 to New Zealand. South Africa leads the tournament and is unbeaten after back-to-back wins over Argentina.
Australia: Israel Folau, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Curtis Rona.
South Africa: Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Uzair Cassiem, Jaco Kriel, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Coenie Oosthuizen, Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Jean-Luc du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende.