Cape Town - Wallabies captain James Horwill makes his return from injury as Australia take on South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.
The return of Horwill comes at a timely moment for the Wallabies with a victory needed to maintain the Mandela Challenge Plate after the Springboks won the opening Test in Brisbane a fortnight ago.
His inclusion is one of six changes made to the team which secured Australia’s first win of the 2013 Rugby Championship with a gutsy 14-13 triumph over Argentina in Perth.
Three of those changes come to the starting backline, which include Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani receiving his first international run-on opportunity and a new wing pairing of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Joe Tomane.
For Kuridrani his selection in the No 13 jersey continues his remarkable rise throughout 2013, which also included the 21-year-old winning the ‘Most Outstanding Young Talent’ award for the Brumbies.
Included in his many highlights was his match-winning try in South Africa in the Super Rugby semi-final against the Bulls.
His move sees Ashley-Cooper start on the wing for the first time since last year’s opening Spring Tour clash against France in Paris.
Tomane has recovered from a shoulder injury to gain selection opposite Ashley-Cooper after starting the final two games on the wing for the Qantas Wallabies during their historic series against The British & Irish Lions.
On the bench prop Benn Robinson will receive his first opportunity for Australia during the Ewen McKenzie-era while 19-year-old sensation Chris Feauai-Sautia is in line to make his Wallabies Test debut.
Scrumhalf Nic White has also maintained his place in the number nine jersey after being awarded the team’s internal Man of Gold Award for Players’ Player against Argentina.
“James has plenty of experience and we are going into a tough environment. He plays the game hard so it’s timely that he is back,” McKenzie said.
“In our outside backs we’ve already been forced into change but Tomane on one wing is pretty straight forward. He is big and powerful and has been in the squad for a long time.
“The question after that is whether we wanted to bring an uncapped player onto the wing or go with Kuridrani, who has been training with the squad every week and has been used off the bench in two games.
“In the end we wanted to make things as smooth as possible while relying on as much experience as we can. We’re going with guys who have been training with us consistently since the beginning of the tournament.
“Adam Ashley-Cooper also has great capacity to cover a number of positions and we’re always going to use him in different roles. With his experience he knows what’s required and the role is something he feels comfortable doing. It won’t change the way he contributes.
“Benn Robinson also comes in, which if you look at it in its totality, means our bench is structured to give us plenty of impact later in the game. That’s where we’ve been at our weakest so far.
“Bringing in experience later in the game can only lift your performance and at the same time they can stake a claim for a further opportunity in the starting team.”
The Wallabies enter Saturday’s match against South Africa with possession of the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate and will retain the silverware for a fourth straight year with a victory at Newlands Stadium.
Victory would also be Australia’s first in Cape Town since 1992, which was the first clash between the two nations since South Africa’s return following the end of the apartheid.
South Africa have won all four matches played at the foot of Table Mountain since that time.
“We approach every game as though we can win it and I’ve never felt we can’t go out there with that expectation. No one will back us but that sits fine with us,” McKenzie said.
“Two wins in a row would be significant for this team, especially winning in South Africa given their current circumstance. We’ve got a great opportunity to be a thorn in what they are trying to do.”
The Wallabies will wear black armbands on Saturday as a mark of respect following the sudden death of former Wallabies captain and member of the Australian Rugby Hall of Fame, John Hipwell OAM.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de
Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8
Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der
Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai
Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper
Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia