Barnstorming loose forward Scott Higginbotham will make his first Test start after being named as No. 8 for Australia for their Tri-Nations clash against World Cup champions South Africa on Saturday.
Higginbotham — who plays blindside flanker for Super Rugby’s Queensland Reds — was impressive off the bench during the Wallabies’ 30-14 loss to the All Blacks last week.
“Scott has made a genuine impact in each of his Test outings to date this year,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said in a media release on Thursday. “And we’ll be looking for him to do the same from the start this week.”
Higginbotham is just one of two changes to the starting side that were comprehensively outplayed at Eden Park. Western Force captain Nathan Sharpe returns to the second row with James Horwill — replacing Rob Simmons — in the other change.
Deans said Simmons had been battling a niggling shoulder injury and it was felt he should rest before the World Cup squad was finalised.
Deans also recalled Radike Samo to the replacements’ bench for the match at Durban, almost seven years after the 35-year-old last played for the Wallabies when he came off the bench against Scotland in November 2004.
Samo will be one of five forward replacements on the bench, with scrumhalf Luke Burgess and centre Anthony Fainga’a the only back reserves.
ACT Brumbies prop Salesi Maafu also returns to the bench following his recovery from a broken arm that he sustained during the southern hemisphere Super Rugby competition.
“Salesi has worked hard to get back. The work he put in at our Gold Coast camp last week confirmed for us, on top of his medical clearance, that he is ready to go,” Deans said.
“He’s in good nick physically, has scrummed well in training and, most importantly, has been there before. Salesi knows what to expect in these types of contests.”
The Springboks were expected to recall a number of frontline players left at home for the away portion of their Tri-Nations campaign, when they suffered two heavy defeats to the Wallabies and the All Blacks. — Reuters
Australia: 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-James O’Connor, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Pat McCabe, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia; 8-Scott Higginbotham, 7-David Pocock, 6-Rocky Elsom (captain), 5-James Horwill, 4-Nathan Sharpe, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16-Saia Faingaa, 17-Salesi Maafu, 18-Sitaleki Timani, 19-Ben McCalman, 20-Radike Samo, 21-Luke Burgess, 22-Anthony Faingaa.