Cheika makes 2 changes to Wallabies for South Africa test
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Australia coach Michael Cheika has made two changes to his starting lineup for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against South Africa, hoping for a reversal of form to end the Wallabies' six-test losing streak.
Reece Hodge will earn his first start for Australia after coming off the bench in the 29-9 loss to New Zealand two weeks ago.
Hodge will take over as winger in the absence of injured 116-test veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper, who has returned to his French club Bordeaux.
In the only other change, Dean Mumm will start on the blindside flank in a backrow combination with David Pocock at No. 8 and Michael Hooper in the open side.
Cheika has picked an extended bench, with one player to be omitted following a final training run at Ballymore on Friday.
Australia lost the Rugby World Cup final to New Zealand at Twickenham last October, dropped three consecutive matches in Australia to England in an unprecedented series loss, and has lost twice more to the No. 1-ranked All Blacks to kick off the Rugby Championship.
Springboks coach Allister Coetzee included Francois Hougaard, Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel in a revamped backline for the Brisbane match. In the only change among the forwards, tighthead prop Lourens Adriaanse will earn his first start in place of Vincent Koch.
South Africa started off the Rugby Championship with a 30-23 home win over Argentina at Nelspruit, before a 26-24 loss to the Pumas at Salta, Argentina.
''Looking at the impact that Juan and Jesse made when they came off the bench in Nelspruit and Salta, I think now is the right time to give them a starting opportunity,'' Coetzee said.
''It's a great opportunity for them to play together as a center combination and both have test match experience. Juan's ability to organize at 12 and his calmness in that role will help to guide Elton (Jantjies) in his flyhalf duties.''
Lock Eben Etzebeth will become the youngest player to reach the 50-test milestone for South Africa. He's the 32nd Springbok to reach that mark, and at the age of 24 years, nine months and 12 days, surpasses the record previously held by Pat Lambie.
Australia is in last place in the Rugby Championship with no points after two rounds. New Zealand leads with 10 points from its two wins over the Wallabies, while South Africa and Argentina are level with five points each.
The All Blacks host Argentina in the other Rugby Championship match Saturday in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Australia: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Bernard Foley, Reece Hodge, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Dean Mumm, Adam Coleman, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), Scott Sio. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Lopeti Timani, Sean McMahon, Nick Phipps, Tevita Kuridrani, Drew Mitchell (one to be omitted).
South Africa: Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel, Juan de Jongh, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley, Oupa Mahoje, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jaco Kriel, Morne Steyn, Lionel Mapoe.