Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is keen to witness first-hand the toughness of Brumbies enforcer Isi Naisarani on debut in a game against South Africa that will provide an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of a new-look Australian back row.
After years of waiting to finally be eligible for the Wallabies, Fijian-born Naisarani will be thrown into the deep end at No.8 on Test debut at Ellis Park on Saturday (Sunday AEST).
Hooper has never lined up alongside Naisarani but has felt the full force of his ball-carrying capabilities at Super Rugby level while playing for the Waratahs.
“Ive played Isi a lot now and he is a tough, tough customer,” Hooper said. “He has been wanting to be in this jersey for a long time, so its a great reward for someone who has put in a lot of years of waiting in the ranks. He gets an opportunity to come here tomorrow and play in such a proud position for the Wallabies at No.8. Im excited to be playing with him as opposed to against him."
While the Wallabies will sorely miss David Pococks breakdown brilliance, Naisarani provides a different package and a bigger body teammates hope he will use to good effect.
"I think he'll bring a bit of X-factor," said Australian squad member Luke Jones. "He's an amazing ball runner, he can pick a line and identify it and get his timing really well. If he can do that, he can make a good couple of linebreaks or he can maybe at least dent the defensive line.
"That's what he can bring and then occasionally in defence he'll come storming out of the line and sprint at someone and try and take them out."
Australia have also picked a big No.6 in Lukhan Salakaia-Loto for his 12th Test in two years after debuting in Bloemfontein against South Africa in 2017.
Hooper may be forced to get his hands dirtier at the breakdown in Pococks absence but overall he is feeling positive about the balance of a back row ready to go head-to-head with the likes of Rynhardt Elstadt, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Francois Louw.
“Its a good balance of mobility and some good ball-carriers and guys who want to get their hands on the opposition in defence,” said Hooper of Australia's back row.
The Wallabies have lost 11 of their previous 15 Tests heading into a World Cup year and have not won in Johannesburg for 56 years.
The last time Australia played at Ellis Park 11 years ago they were thumped 53-8.
“You get to look at what youve been doing for the last couple of weeks and [a win] validates the stuff youve been trying,” Hooper said. “We do want to build momentum. We want to have a really good strong attacking game and the ability to do that across the length of the field as well as a strong defence.
“We know we have to keep our wits about us against a South African team with a really big strong pack. Weve had a bRead More – Source