Coach Cheika likes Dempsey's 'angry streak'
MICHAEL Cheika has backed a wild-eyed Jack Dempsey to stand up to the abrasive Springboks forwards after the Wallabies coach handed the NSW flanker a starting role and sent fellow rookie Ned Hanigan to the bench.
Dempsey is one of three changes to the run-on team from the Wallabies' last-start win against Argentina, and all three new additions will be making their starting debuts.
Raw-boned Queensland lock Izack Rodda has been named to start alongside Adam Coleman in just his third Test, and ex-NRL winger Marika Koroibete will start after only making his debut in the last Test.
The trio of changes are the latest in Cheika's plan to expose new players to the heat of Test rugby well ahead of the run into the 2019 World Cup.
Dempsey's promotion is arguably be the only one made on form, with Hanigan having struggled in recent Tests.
Hanigan has been included on an extended bench, with Lukhan Tui also named as a potential backrow reserve.
Cheika is weighing up a 6-2 bench or a traditional 5-3. Stephen Moore has also returned to the team at Jordan Uelese's expense.
Cheika said it was time to "change it up" and give Dempsey, 23, a shot in the no.6.
"Realistically he (Hanigan) should never had to play seven games in a row from his debut when he wasn't even playing Super Rugby at the start of the year," Cheika said.
"We could have given him a chance, taken him out, give him another chance and let him build. But he has done so well. It's just a different challenge for him this week."
Dempsey, who went on the Spring Tour last year but missed most of the Super Rugby season due to a broken foot, is noted for his pace and mobility.
But Cheika is also fond of the 23-year-old's angry streak.
"The eyes roll in the back of the head with Jack, if you know what I mean," Cheika said.
"He gets very aggresive and that's what I like. I like that. You have to have one or two of those guys in your pack. He loves the contact and he loves to get into it. That's one of the big reasons I like him as a player.
"It's a really big game for him against a physical pack. I think he'll go toe-to-toe for sure, he enjoys that part of the game."
Rodda will be similarly tasked with muscling up against the massive Springbok locks, led by huge skipper Eben Etzebeth.
The 21-year-old only debuted for Queensland this year, and was thrust into the Wallabies ranks last month when a late injury to Coleman saw him sitting on the bench against the All Blacks in Dunedin.
It was that assured effort - and his 2.02m and 120kg frame - that has convinced Cheika about Rodda being a reliable option for a starting role, with Simmons to finish.
"In both games he's come on and done well," Cheika said.
"In Dunedin he came on and straight away had to catch a big lineout. His lineout work is good. He is young, he is eager and like I said, I want to give them these experiences so they can learn. I don't think there is any risk there because he has come off the bench and played well in two big games and I can't see why starting is any different."
Almost exactly a year since he played in the 2016 NRL Grand Final for Melbourne, Koroibete will get his first start ahead of Henry Speight. The Fijian flyer came off the bench in Canberra and expecting a fast game on a dry track, Cheika said he like the pace of Koroibete in his backline.
After including the ex-Storm star in every squad since the Spring Tour, Cheika is now confident Koroibete is mostly back up to speed with wing play in rugby. His high-ball catching could be tested but Koroibete is confident in that area.
"He still has a bit to work on in terms of finding his lines off set-pieces and things like that. But defensively and his work-rate, and stuff like that, he's on the money," Cheika said.
Wallabies team: Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale, Tevita Kuridrani, Marika Koroibete, Israel Folau.
Bench (one to be omitted): Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight.