Cheika backs Kerevi as backline competition heats up

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has shown faith in Samu Kerevi, bringing him back into the 23 to face the Springboks, but warned there is some tough competition bearing down on him.

Kerevi started in the opening Bledisloe but was dropped in Dunedin, with a lack of match fitness and some poor defensive execution exposed in Sydney.

The 23-year-old impressed for Brisbane City in the NRC opener last weekend, though, and immediately earned a Test recall, with an injury to winger Dane Haylett-Petty opening the door for change.

Cheika was full of praise for Kerevi on Thursday but was quick to talk up the recent form of Rebels and Rising winger Marika Koroibete and Queensland youngster Izaia Perese as well.

Koroibete scored a spectacular double for the Rising in Perth last weekend, one of a handful of Test contenders lining up at UWA Sports Park for the first round.

Izaia Perese has impressed Cheika. Photo: WalmsleyPerese has had a breakout season for the Reds, after being a surprise development inclusion in last year’s Spring Tour.

“>He's (Kerevi) one of our best players,” Cheika said.

“Like I said when he got left out, I think it was about getting himself a bit fitter, getting himself right, he's had another couple of weeks to get himself ready.

“It was tough (going) because I feel there's a couple of players who have really come on - Marika Koroibete over the last few weeks has been humming and I don't think he's too far away from a game of footy and also young Perese has been excellent as well.

“It's been a real contest in that back three, because there's some versatility where (Curtis) Rona can play at 13 or on the wing and even Perese can play in the centre, that's where he is actually, where he was brought up playing all his football.

“They've both been humming those two guys so it was a tough go but I wanted to give Samu a crack at it because I think he's going to be one of our standouts in the future and the sooner he gets back up to the pace and back into the game environment, proving himself, the better.”

Kerevi will have another chance to prove himself against South Africa, who currently lead the Rugby Championship after two dominant victories against Argentina.

Though their forward pack traditionally packs a punch, their attack has added dimensions this season as well, Cheika said.

“I think they've been very physical around their forward pack, and their backs, their backs are big strong running players,” he said.

“There's that part but they've also been creative as well.

“They've got a few different tricky little lineouts that they've gone, where they put a whole bunch of numbers in there and peels and drives.

“They're offsetting a bit of the tactical stuff as well, with just the power game.

“In (flyhalf Elton) Jantjies they've got a guy who's got an excellent kicking game around the field. He can put the ball in behind you and they've got some genuine pace.

“So, they've pretty much got threats all over the park if you let them play unpressured.”

Perese, Adam Korczyk and Kane Douglas have all been released to their NRC teams for this weekend, with more likely to be sent back to play, pending travel arrangements.

The Wallabies take on South Africa on Saturday night, kicking off at 6pm AWST, 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS, TEN, Win and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.