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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Rugby Championship: Unbeaten Springboks take on winless Wallabies in Perth

Ross Cronje overcomes an ankle injury to win back his place at scrum-half in South Africa's lineup

South Africa are top of the Rugby Championship after two wins over Argentina. Juan Mabromata / AFP
South Africa are top of the Rugby Championship after two wins over Argentina. Juan Mabromata / AFP

South Africa head into Saturday's match against Australia in first place in the Rugby Championship standings but without a win in Australia since 2013.

The Springboks are 2-0 after consecutive wins over Argentina. Australia have lost both matches to New Zealand, including a 35-29 defeat two weeks ago after leading 29-28 with four minutes left and after opening up a 17-0 lead in the first half.

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee couldn't resist taking a subtle poke at the Wallabies over that close loss in Dunedin, New Zealand.

"To not to have won that one, I don't know how it slipped away in the last three minutes when you get so close to winning a Test," Coetzee said. "They put themselves in a position to win it; you should win it."

Ross Cronje overcame an ankle injury to win back his place at scrum-half in South Africa's lineup for the Perth match. Cronje established himself as the Springboks' first-choice No 9 this season but was forced to miss the away victory over Argentina in Salta after sustaining an ankle ligament sprain in the first meeting between the teams in Port Elizabeth.

He now resumes his halves pairing with Elton Jantjies while Francois Hougaard returns to the bench.

Pieter-Steph du Toit returns in place of Franco Mostert at lock in the only other change to the Springboks' starting lineup. Mostert has been rested after a heavy workload this season in what Coetzee calls a rotational change.

"Franco has played an enormous amount of rugby at Super Rugby level, playing club rugby in Japan and starting all of our Test matches so far this year," Coetzee said. "We have to be sensible in managing the workload of certain players ... we are fortunate to have a number of very good locks."

Du Toit, South Africa's Player of the Year this season, is reunited in the second row with captain Eben Etzebeth.

In the only other Springboks change to the match 23 that played at Salta, fly-half Handre Pollard returns among the reserves for his first selection in a match-day squad since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika created a selection surprise by naming uncapped hooker Jordan Uelese on the bench for the match. Uelese has played only 28 minutes of Super Rugby in his debut season for the Melbourne Rebels, but Cheika felt he had done enough in training to earn a place.

"I just see so much potential in him," Cheika said. "He's a very strong scrummager. He's strong in the physical contest. I figure this is a great opportunity against a team that is renowned for that part of their game."

Veteran Stephen Moore is unavailable pending the birth of his third child and Tatafu Polota-Nau will start at hooker. Uelese is likely to see game time as a replacement.

Winger Dane Haylett-Petty has been ruled out of the Australia lineup with a recurring left biceps injury that requires surgery. Reece Hodge will take his place.

Adam Coleman returns from a shoulder injury to partner Rory Arnold in the second row, and centre Samu Kerevi has been recalled to the bench after being dropped for the second Bledisloe Cup Test.

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