By Adam Ellis
Australia head coach Michael Cheika has backed flanker Jack Dempsey to pack a punch in the Wallabies back row when they take on South Africa in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
23-year-old Dempsey is one of three players to get their first starts as Izack Rodda pairs up with Adam Coleman at lock, while the one change to the backline sees Marika Koroibete start on the wing in only his second Test.
Dempsey has shown promise on the blindside at the scrum and replaces fellow rookie Ned Hanigan who is dropped to the bench. A decision Cheika says was logical given the Waratahs youngster’s early introduction to Test rugby.
“Realistically he (Hanigan) should never had to play seven games in a row from his debut when he wasn’t even playing Super Rugby at the start of the year,” Cheika said, as Australia prepare to win after only registering a victory over Argentina thus far in this year’s Rugby Championship.
“We could have given him a chance, taken him out, give him another chance and let him build. But he has done so well. It’s just a different challenge for him this week.”
Looking to blood in potential options for the Japan World Cup in two years’ time, Cheika expressed his liking to Dempsey’s physicality in handing him his first start in his fourth match in the gold and green.
“The eyes roll in the back of the head with Jack, if you know what I mean.
“He gets very aggresive and that’s what I like. I like that. You have to have one or two of those guys in your pack. He loves the contact and he loves to get into it. That’s one of the big reasons I like him as a player.
“It’s a really big game for him against a physical pack. I think he’ll go toe-to-toe for sure, he enjoys that part of the game.”
2016’s fixture saw the Springboks edge a narrow game 18-10, with Morné Steyn kicking all of South Africa’s points.
Australia team: Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon.
Bench (one player to be omitted for matchday): Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight.
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