He has played just 28 minutes of Super Rugby but Rebels rookie Jordan Uelese is in line to be the latest Wallabies debutant, named in Australia’s 23 to take on the Springboks.
Uelese, 20, bolted into the squad last month and has not put a foot wrong since bringing his hulking frame into the Test landscape, impressing his teammates and coaches alike.
The Melbourne youngster has played three games for the Rebels, with 16, five and seven minutes in those outings, as well as starring in the U20s World Championship campaign.With the withdrawal of Stephen Moore, who stayed in Brisbane for the birth of his third child, the door opened for Uelese’s potential debut, despite his limited game time at the elite level.
Tatafu Polota-Nau will take the no. 2 jersey in one of three changes to the starting forward pack, with Sekope Kepu to start at tighthead and Adam Coleman returning from injury to partner Rory Arnold in the starting lineup for the Perth Test.
Coleman was an 11th-hour withdrawal from the Wallabies’ second Bledisloe Test with a shoulder injury, but has shaken that off in the fortnight since.
His return will bring with it his trademark aggression, an element that will be crucial against a Springboks side flying high on confidence.
"Obviously they've got their swagger at the moment, they've had a couple of really good wins and traditionally they'll look at us as (though) they can push us around in the pack and we're going to have to be at our best to make sure that we can go toe-to-toe with them," Cheika said.
His Force teammate Dane Haylett-Petty was ruled out earlier on Thursday, with the winger set to undergo surgery on a torn biceps muscle, putting him out for the rest of the 2017 season.
Reece Hodge will replace Haylett-Petty in the starting side, his first start of the year at Test level.Samu Kerevi has earned a reprieve onto the bench after being dropped for the second Bledisloe Test in Dunedin, having played for Brisbane City in the opening round of the NRC last weekend.
Flanker Jack Dempsey is in line to add to his one June appearance, named on the bench in favour of Lopeti Timani for this weekend’s South African challenge.
The Wallabies produced some optimism in a thrilling 35-29 loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin a fortnight ago, but Cheika said it was vital for them to back that up this weekend.
"That is the key to rugby getting back to the level in this country as a whole, delivering every week, not being content to sit on the back of one happy performance because chaps aren't throwing eggs at you that week," he said.
"When you go out there in the gold jersey or in any jersey you're playing for Australian rugby, particularly your national jersey, you're representing everybody here and people here want to see us fully committed and fully committed every week, no self-doubt, just going out there and doing our absolute best and then the cards will fall wherever they do."
The Wallabies take on the Springboks on Saturday September 9, kicking off at 6pm AWST, 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten, Win and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.
IN: Samu Kerevi, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Jordan Uelese
OUT: Dane Haylett-Petty (biceps), Izack Rodda (omitted), Lopeti Timani (omitted), Stephen Moore (baby)
1. Scott Sio (34 Tests)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (73 Tests)
3. Sekope Kepu (82 Tests)
4. Rory Arnold (14 Tests)
5. Adam Coleman (13 Tests)
6. Ned Hanigan (5 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (70 Tests)
8. Sean McMahon (17 Tests)
9. Will Genia (80 Tests)
10. Bernard Foley (47 Tests)
11. Reece Hodge (15 Tests)
12. Kurtley Beale (62 Tests)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (49 Tests)
14. Henry Speight (14 Tests)
15. Israel Folau (57 Tests)
16. Jordan Uelese*
17. Tom Robertson (11 Tests)
18. Allan Alaalatoa (14 Tests)
19. Rob Simmons (73 Tests)
20. Jack Dempsey (1 Test)
21. Nick Phipps (53 Tests)
22. Samu Kerevi (9 Tests)
23. Curtis Rona (1 Test)