Wallabies embracing Ellis Park challenge: Uelese

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rookie Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese says the side will embrace the tough atmosphere of Johannesburg’s Ellis Park this weekend.

Australia has tasted international victory just once at the venue, back in 1963, and their last outing there in 2008 was a 53-8 drubbing.

Uelese, who made his debut against the Springboks, said he expected South Africa’s physicality to compound the atmosphere and the altitude in the South Africa's largest city.

It is an occasion, though, that he feels the Wallabies have been planning for, spending an extra week in the country to acclimatise.

“Obviously coming here to Joburg and playing at altitude, especially at a hostile Ellis Park, is going to be tough considering they come with a lot of brute and play with a lot of force,” he said.

“But that's what we live for. That's why we play Test footy for games like these.

Jordan Uelese is relishing his time back in Wallabies camp. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“It's a challenge we've been building towards these last three weeks.

“Coming here that week earlier to South Africa has helped us acclimatise and connect as a group really well.

Just being back in the mix to play Test rugby is pleasing for Uelese, who was sidelined for the better part of a year after a knee reconstruction.

Uelese cruelly missed out on the chance to add to his two 2017 Wallabies Tests when he ruptured his ACL against the Blues on the eve of Australia’s 2018 June Series.

At just 22 and with only 14 Super Rugby matches under his belt, Uelese is still very much a new face in the Test frame but he said his injury had helped him mature somewhat as well.

“I'm grateful to be in this position again because it's something  didn't feel I'd be back in,” he said.

“It's something I won't take for granted.

“I'm definitely doing all I can with a more mature mindset and want to help push each other to go great this season.”

While he missed a large chunk of the past year, Uelese used the time to work on something that didn’t add stress to his knee - his throwing.

He started with throwing medicine balls with physios and slowly progressed as his knee rehab continued.

“Look, a major thing I needed to work on was my throwing,” he said.

“Obviously something that was holding me back a bit. Just having those 11 months off gave me time to strip back and work on my body and my skills

“As a hooker you've got to be good at your set piece and that's Something I've worked really hard on with (Rebels assistant) Geoff Parling back at the Rebels as well as (national skills coach) Mick Byrne, who has come down a fair bit to help me with my throwing.”

Uelese is one of three hookers in the 34-man squad in Johannesburg, along with Folau Fainga’a and Tolu Latu.

The Wallabies will name their team for Sunday’s Test against South Africa on Thursday night (AEST).

The Wallabies take on South Africa at Ellis Park, JOhannesburg, on Saturday July 20, kicking off at 5:05pm local, Sunday 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Kayo.