Cheika's selection surprise

Soon-to-be Wallaby Jordan Uelese may have played just 28 minutes of Super Rugby, but coach Michael Cheika says now is the time to throw the 20-year-old hooker in the deep end - against South Africa on Saturday.

Cheika has made four changes to the Wallabies starting side for their match against the Springboks with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, prop Sekope Kepu, second-rower Adam Coleman and winger Reece Hodge all returning. 

Named on the bench, Melbourne Rebels rookie hooker Uelese is in line to make his test debut despite having played less than half an hour of Super Rugby. 

Many will see it as a gamble against a formidable Springboks pack, but Cheika is hellbent that Uelese, a standout at U20 level, is made of the right stuff. 

"I just see so much potential in him," Cheika said of Ulese, who was born in Wellington before moving with his family to Melbourne when he was 11-years-old. 

"He's a strong scrummager, he's strong in the physical contest and I figure this is a great opportunity to see him against a team that is renowned for that part of their game and throw him in the deep end a bit. 

"No one is expecting him to be perfect. I'm sure he'll do very well." 

With Polota-Nau taking over as starting hooker, Uelese was brimming with pride on Thursday when told the news and said the knowledge he has picked up in recent weeks will help ease the nerves of such a big occasion. 

"To potentially debut is awesome and it will fulfil a childhood dream," Uelese said.

"I was pretty ecstatic. For him [Cheika] to instil his belief in me … is immense. It's a really proud moment for me. 

"I'm scrummaging [against] some of the most capped players in our sport, so having 28 minutes of Super Rugby isn't ideal in terms of experience but when you're feeding off the knowledge of these players such as 'Tarfe' and 'Moorey' and even Keps', you do feel a bit more comfortable." 

Polota-Nau said: "It's circa 2005 when I was in his position. Seeing his form in U20s was remarkable. I wish I had that confidence at such a young age." 

Cheika said it was a "big loss" to be without winger Dane Haylett-Petty, who will require surgery on his biceps, putting him out of action for three months and ultimately the rest of the Test season. 

Hodge has been called up to replace Haylett-Petty, having come off the bench for the Wallabies in all five matches this year in what is an otherwise unchanged back line to the team that fronted up in Dunedin a fortnight ago. 

"He [Haylett-Petty] thought he might be able to keep playing with [the injury] but when he got into the contact work on Tuesday it wasn't possible for him to do his job," Cheika said. 

With Moore still in Brisbane celebrating the birth of his third child, Polota-Nau, as expected, will step up to the role of starting hooker alongside a reliable ally in tight-head Kepu. 

Kepu, like Hodge, has come off the pine in every test this year and will be looking to improve Australia's problematic scrum on Saturday after their below-par effort in New Zealand. 

"[My] last outing [against Kepu] was here at nib [Stadium] and I was talking smack to him all game good, so it will be to have him by my side and hopefully we can talk smack together against the Boks," Polota-Nau said. 

The Wallabies, who sit third on the Rugby Championship standings, have lost five of their last eight matches against the Springboks and will be aiming to end South Africa's five-game winning streak. 

"[It is about] not being content on the back of one happy performance because chaps aren't throwing eggs at you that week," Cheika said. "People here want to see us fully committed and have no self doubt." 

Coleman comes back into the starting XV having overcome a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Dunedin fixture. 

Rob Simmons has been relegated to a 5-3 bench that also includes Uelese, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa and one-cap player Jack Dempsey.  

Surprisingly, Cheika could find no room for back-rower Lopeti Timani. 

Nick Phipps is the back-up halfback to Will Genia once again, while Samu Kerevi returns to the match-day 23 following his poor defensive performance two games ago in Sydney. 

Meanwhile, three players – Izaia Perese (Queensland Country), Kane Douglas (Brisbane City) and Adam Korczyk – have been released for NRC duty, with more to possibly come once travel arrangements can be organised. 

AUSTRALIA: Israel Folau, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Curtis Rona




Caption: Jordan Uelese has been named for the Wallabies despite only playing three Super Rugby games off the bench.