DURBAN (Reuters) - Loose forward Scott Higginbotham will make his first test start for Australia after being named as number eight for their Tri-Nations clash against World Cup champions South Africa in Durban Saturday.
The 24-year-old, 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 at Eden Park on Saturday.
Coach Robbie Deans has also brought in veteran lock Nathan Sharpe in a bid to beef up his pack, which came off second best to the All Blacks at the breakdown. Ben McCalman drops to the bench while Rob Simmons misses out altogether.
“He’s earned the start that he has got and he’s done well with the time that he has had,” Deans told a news conference on Thursday.
“We are looking for him to bring a similar enthusiasm and industriousness with the time he has now. It’s a different skill starting at the front-end so there are some realities to deal with as regards to that.”
Higginbotham said he was looking forward to finally making his first start.
“I’ve enjoyed my time off the bench but you don’t want to be a bench player, you want to be a starting player and I’m going to make the most of my starting opportunity this weekend and try and hold that spot,” he said.
Sharpe, 33, will add some much needed experience to the Wallabies second-row and should help the Wallabies in the key lineout battle.
“Preparation ahead of a game with the Springboks is essential. Victor (Matfield) has been there for a long time. We know each other pretty well,” said Sharpe.
“But in terms of getting a result for the team, it is about everyone doing their job and everyone knowing exactly what their job is and our preparation has been really good to that end.”
Ben McCalman drops to the Wallabies bench while lock Rob Simmons, who is carrying a shoulder injury, falls out of the squad.
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 sustained during the southern hemisphere’s Super rugby competition.
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
Reporting by Jason Humphries and Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford