Cheika follows Rassie's lead to find the right recipe

Cheika follows Rassie's lead to find the right recipe

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has to some extent followed the lead of the Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus for Saturdays first test in the Rugby Championship to gauge what attributes and shortcomings he has in his squad and to test combinations.

Not the most conventional of coaches, Cheika came up with a balance of experience and some selection surprises including the resting of two of his stand-out backs against a Bok side that is well-balanced but not nearly the best the country can field.

Despite the Cheika surprises this is a strong team and close to the best the Wallabies can field at this stage.

Up front he preferred plenty of experience in selecting two props James Slipper (86 Tests) who returns to test rugby after two seasons and Sekope Kepu (103 Tests) with captain Michael Hooper on 94.

Fidjian Isi Naisarani will make his Test debut at number eight with Michael Hooper and Lukhan Salakai-Loto as his loose forward partners.

Already without fullback Israel Folau, out of Australian rugby for well-documented reasons, Cheika left out the dangerous Kurtley Beale, lately deployed at centre or fullback, and the number one scrumhalf Will Genia.

The latter’s place is taken by Nic White, who will play in his first Test since the lead-up to the World Cup in 2015.

With centres Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi both fit and ready, Beale was thought to be earmarked as replacement for Folau. Cheika, however, decided on Tom Banks to make his run-on debut as his fullback.

The backline is nevertheless quite experienced with only Nic White (22 Tests) and Banks (3) with less than 25 test caps. Bernard Foley (68) and Tevita Kuridrani (58) are the most experienced followed by Reece Hodge (33).

Wallabies – 
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, 6 Lukhan Salakai-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper. Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.