PORTELIZABETH, South Africa (Reuters) – Australia have handed prop Taniela Tupou a first test start as they look for extra muscle in the pack for Saturday’s Rugby Championship test against South Africa who beat the world champion All Blacks in New Zealand two weeks ago.
Tupou, nicknamed the “Tongan Thor”, has made six appearances off the bench for the Wallabies but starts in the front row for the first time, alongside Scott Sio who will earn his 50th cap.
Tupou, 22, will add more power to what is expected to a bruising forward battle in a game Australia need to win to take pressure off themselves and coach Michael Cheika.
“He can build the concentration from the very start and make sure he nails it all and obviously he’s got a lot of talent and only got six caps now,” Cheika told reporters on Thursday.
“I thought it might be a good opportunity for him in what will be a pretty difficult atmosphere I imagine and a good front row opposite for him to show what he has got.
“I believe in him a lot as a player and I’m sure he’ll do a very good job.”
Captain Michael Hooper returns to the side after a late withdrawal from Australia’s 23-19 home defeat by Argentina two weeks ago and is joined by Ned Hanigan in the back-row. Hooper’s return means Dave Pocock switches to number eight.
Adam Coleman returns to the starting XV at lock after coming off the bench against Argentina on the Gold Coast.
The backline stays the same despite the defeat which was the third in four games in this year’s southern hemisphere competition for Australia.
They are bottom of the Rugby Championship standings, sitting on five points behind New Zealand (16), South Africa (10) and Argentina (8) and have won only two of their last nine games.
15-Dane Haylett-Petty, 14-Israel Folau, 13-Reece Hodge, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Kurtley Beale, 9-Will Genia, 8-David Pocock, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Ned Hanigan, 5-Izack Rodda, 4-Adam Coleman, 3-Taniela Tupou, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-Scott Sio
Replacements: 16-Folau Faingaa, 17-Sekope Kepu, 18-Allan Alaalatoa, 19-Rory Arnold, 20-Rob Simmons, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Bernard Foley, 23-Jack Maddocks.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond)