JOHANNESBURG – Wallabies coach Michael Cheika on Thursday named his side for their opening Test of 2019 against South Africa, with Isi Naisarani set to make his debut in the gold jersey.
The Melbourne Rebels backrower will become Wallaby 926 when he runs out at Emirates Airline Park in the number 8 jersey. Originally from Fiji, Naisarani moved to Australia in 2014 where he starred in Brisbane Premier Rugby, the National Rugby Championship and in Super Rugby for the Western Force, Brumbies and now the Melbourne Rebels.
It could also be a first Test cap for Waratahs young gun Harry Johnson-Holmes, who only joined the squad in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening local time. The prop was a late call-up following injuries to Scott Sio and Tom Robertson at training.
Johnson-Holmes is now in line to be Wallaby 927, should he come off the bench against South Africa.
The clash will mark a return to the Test arena for fellow prop James Slipper – 959 days after his last International against England at Twickenham on the 2016 Spring Tour.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said: “This is an opportunity for our team. We really want to begin building momentum to take us towards our goals in 2019.
“The players are impatient to play at Ellis Park where our Wallabies haven’t had an opportunity to play for quite a while.
“We know we go into the game as heavy underdogs but most of the players have had a touch over three great weeks of training to prepare, so really they just can’t wait to get out and get into the battle.
“I’m feeling a lot belief and commitment from the people in this Wallaby squad. They’ve all invested a tonne of effort into our preparation and I know the 23 men selected to represent us all on Saturday will do us proud,” Cheika said.
The Wallabies haven’t played South Africa in Johannesburg since a 53-8 defeat in 2008 and haven’t won at the now renamed Ellis Park since 1963.
The Wallabies team to play South Africa is:
1. James Slipper (86 Tests)
2. Folau Fainga’a (7 Tests)
3. Sekope Kepu (103 Tests)
4. Izack Rodda (17 Tests)
5. Rory Arnold (19 Tests)
6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (11 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (91 Tests)
8. Isi Naisarani*
9. Nic White (22 Tests)
10. Bernard Foley (68 Tests)
11. Reece Hodge (33 Tests)
12. Samu Kerevi (vc) (25 Tests)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (58 Tests)
14. Dane Haylett-Petty (30 Tests)
15. Tom Banks (3 Tests)
16. Jordan Uelese (2 Tests)
17. Harry Johnson-Holmes*
18. Taniela Tupou (11 Tests)
19. Rob Simmons (94 Tests)
20. Jack Dempsey (10 Tests)
21. Will Genia (100 Tests)
22. Matt To’omua (42 Tests)
23. Kurtley Beale (83 Tests)