Tupou set to be unleashed against Sprinboks in first Wallabies start
Monster Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou is set to unleash a whole lot of pent-up frustration on South Africa, with Michael Cheika naming the 22-year-old in the Australian starting side for the first time.
Tupou has come off the bench six times in his international career since making his debut against Scotland at Murrayfield last year and there have been calls for him to start sooner given his devastating scrummaging performances throughout the recent Super Rugby season.
Impressive: Taniela Tupou holds the Mandela Plate after the Wallabies’ win in Brisbane.
In recent months Cheika has been cautious with Tupou, saying that while he has a huge future ahead of him, there was no reason to rush him into a starting side.
Cheika is a big fan of injecting Tupou late in the contest but it appears he has had a change of heart as the Wallabies look to get themselves out of a form slump and restore some pride against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth.
Tupou was outstanding against South Africa just a few weeks ago in Brisbane and that performance alone may have been what convinced Cheika into letting the man known at "Tongan Thor" get his first starting crack at Test level.
Once known for his damaging ball-carrying, Tupou’s scrummaging has been a hallmark of his game in recent years and he is set for a fascinating battle with a meaty Springboks pack high on confidence after their win over the All Blacks in Wellington.
Speaking after the Brisbane match, Tupou flagged his interest in starting.
"If they start me think I'm up for it and ready to take it," Tupou said. "I'll keep working hard and hopefully get the chance to start some time soon."
Cheika has made four changes to his starting team, with captain Michael Hooper coming back from injury and Ned Hanigan slotting into No.6 in what will be his first start since the England fixture at Twickenham last November.
Hanigan got the nod over Angus Cottrell, who will have to wait for a Test debut after he was not selected in the match day 23.
Second-rower Izack Rodda comes back into the starting team, with Rory Arnold dropping to the bench.
Interestingly, Rob Simmons has been named on a 5-3 bench and will play as a replacement back-rower if required given Cottrell and Caleb Timu are not there.
In the starters, Cheika has kept faith in the Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua combination at No.10 and No.12 for the third Test in a row, with Bernard Foley still on a bench that also features reserve backs Nick Phipps and Jack Maddocks.
Israel Folau has been retained on the wing and will get his first chance to shine against the Springboks this year after missing the recent match at Suncorp Stadium.
The Wallabies will also be hoping winger Marika Koroibete can replicate some of the form he showed in Africa last year when he chalked up two tries in his run-on debut in Bloemfontein.
Australia are last on the Rugby Championship standings, sitting on five points behind New Zealand (16), South Africa (10) and Argentina (8).
The side has won just two of its last nine games and there is a mountain of pressure on the team to give a better account of themselves after they were beaten by Argentina for the first time on Australian soil since 1983.
The Wallabies have not won a Test in South Africa since 2011 but the memory of last year’s 27-all draw in Bloemfontein will be a fresh reminder that victory is very much achievable.
The last time Australia faced the Springboks in Port Elizabeth was in 1963.
Wallabies team to face South Africa
1. Scott Sio (49 Tests)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (86 Tests)
3. Taniela Tupou (6 Tests)
4. Adam Coleman (26 Tests)
5. Izack Rodda (11 Tests)
6. Ned Hanigan (15 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (85 Tests)
8. David Pocock (73 Tests)
9. Will Genia (94 Tests)
10. Kurtley Beale (78 Tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (15 Tests)
12. Matt Toomua (37 Tests)
13. Reece Hodge (31 Tests)
14. Israel Folau (67 Tests)
15. Dane Haylett-Petty (25 Tests)
16. Folau Faingaa (3 Tests)
17. Sekope Kepu (97 Tests)
18. Allan Alaalatoa (27 Tests)
19. Rory Arnold (17 Tests)
20. Rob Simmons (88 Tests)
21. Nick Phipps (67 Tests)
22. Bernard Foley (62 Tests)
23. Jack Maddocks (4 Tests)
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