Two debutants for Wallabies team to face the Springboks

The Melbourne Rebels backrower was set to become Wallaby 926 when he ran out in the number eight jersey.

Wallabies players. Picture: @Wallabies/

CAPE TOWN - Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has confirmed his side for their opening 2019 Rugby Championship Test against South Africa, with Isi Naisarani named for his debut.

The Melbourne Rebels backrower was set to become Wallaby 926 when he ran out in the number eight jersey.

Originally from Fiji, Naisarani moved to Australia in 2014 where he starred in Brisbane Premier Rugby, the National Rugby Championship and 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. The prop was a late call-up following injuries to Scott Sio and Tom Robertson at training. Johnson-Holmes was now in line to be Wallaby 927, should he come off the bench against South Africa.

The clash would 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.

It has been an even longer wait between Test caps for Nic White with Saturday’s Test to be almost four years since he last played in a Wallabies jersey. White’s last start came against New Zealand at Eden Park on August 2015.

Tevita Kuridrani would partner Samu Kerevi in the centres, resuming their combination for the first time since November 2017, when they faced Scotland in Edinburgh.

“This is an opportunity for our team. We 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," said Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

“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 they just can’t wait to get out and get into the battle. I’m feeling a lot of 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."

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.

Australia are the current holders of the Mandela Challenge Plate after having retained the trophy in 2018 with both sides enjoying one win each on home soil.

Christian Lealiifano (shoulder), Scott Sio (adductor), Tom Robertson (ankle) and Allan Alaalatoa (foot) were not considered for selection due to injury.

15 Tom Banks,
14 Dane Haylett-Petty,
13 Tevita Kuridrani,
12 Samu Kerevi,
11 Reece Hodge,
10 Bernard Foley,
9 Nic White,
8 Isi Naisarani,
7 Michael Hooper (captain),
6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto,
5 Rory Arnold,
4 Izack Rodda,
3 Sekope Kepu,
2 Folau Fainga’a,
1 James Slipper.
16 Jordan Uelese,
17 Harry Johnson-Holmes,
18 Taniela Tupou,
19 Rob Simmons,
20 Jack Dempsey,
21 Will Genia,
22 Matt To’omua,
23 Kurtley Beale.