Australia line up first Test starts to trio against S. Africa

Australia's Marika Koroibete (L), try-scorer Will Genia (2nd L) and Israel Folau (3rd L) celebrate during their Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Canberra on September 16, 2017

Johannesburg (AFP) – Rugby league convert Marika Koroibete is set to make his run-on debut for Australia on Saturday in a Rugby Championship match against South Africa in Bloemfontein.

The 25-year-old Fiji-born winger replaces Henry Speight in one of three changes to the team that started a 45-20 home victory over Argentina two weekends ago.

Lock Izack Rodda and flanker Jack Dempsey will also start a Test for the first time, taking the places of Rob Simmons and Ned Hanigan.

Speight, Simmons and Hanigan are among nine replacements named by coach Michael Cheika in Johannesburg on Thursday, with one to drop out before the match at Free State Stadium. 

Cheika said the trio making first starts deserved the opportunities in what is effectively a contest for second place with New Zealand poised to wrap up the title in Argentina.

“Marika did well off the bench in his debut against Argentina,” said Cheika, recalling a 45-20 victory that gave the Wallabies their first win of the campaign.  

“Izack is young, eager and I want to give him Test experience so that he can learn. He came off the bench and played well in two big games.  

“It is a good opportunity for Jack, too. He has had a couple of games off the bench and contributed well.”

Fly-half Bernard Foley will win his 50th cap against the Springboks, who suffered a record 57-0 thrashing from New Zealand in Auckland in their last match.

The playmaker has scored 499 points for the Wallabies, including 51 in four Rugby Championship matches this season.

Australia and South Africa drew 23-23 in Perth this month, a rare stalemate between countries who traditionally win at home against each other.

New Zealand have 19 points after four rounds of the southern hemisphere championship, South Africa 11, Australia eight and Argentina none.

Team (15-1) 

Israel Folau; Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper (capt), Jack Dempsey; Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio

Replacements: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Lukhan Tui, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight

Note: one replacement to be omitted

Coach: Michael Cheika (AUS)


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