Australia picked back-rower Scott Higginbotham to make his first Test start and recalled lock Nathan Sharpe for this weekend’s Tri-Nations rugby match against South Africa in Durban.
Higginbotham, who impressed off the bench in Australia’s opening three matches of 2011, replaces Ben McCalman at No. 8. Sharpe comes in for Rob Simmons in the only other change to the team that started the 30-14 loss to New Zealand five days ago.
“Scott has made a genuine impact in each of his Test outings to date this year,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said in an e-mailed statement. “We’ll be looking for him to do the same from the start this week.”
On the bench, Salesi Ma’afu, Sitaleki Timani and Radike Samo replaced Pek Cowan, Dan Vickerman and Lachie Turner as selectors opted for a split of five forwards and two backs against the Springboks. Samo, 35, played the last of his six Tests for Australia almost seven years ago.
The Wallabies, who last won the southern hemisphere’s annual rugby championship in 2001, trail the All Blacks by four points in the standings. Australia suffered an upset loss to Samoa on July 17 before beating South Africa in the Tri-Nations opener six days later.
WALLABIES SQUAD: 15. Kurtley Beale, 14. James O’Connor, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 7. David Pocock, 6. Rocky Elsom (captain), 5. James Horwill, 4. Nathan Sharpe, 3. Ben Alexander, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Sekope Kepu.
Reserves: 16. Saia Fainga’a, 17. Salesi Ma’afu, 18. Sitaleki Timani, 19. Ben McCalman, 20. Radike Samo, 21. Luke Burgess, 22. Anthony Fainga’a.