PORT ELIZABETH – Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has been ruled out of Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against South Africa due to a hamstring injury.
“Polota-Nau injured his hamstring at Thursday’s training session, and was monitored overnight before being ruled out by medical staff,” Rugby Australia said in a statement.
Folau Faingaa will make his first Test start in his place at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, while Brandon Paenga-Amosa moves on to the bench.
It is the second change to the Australian front row, with the ‘Tongan Thor’ Taniela Tupou getting his first Test start at tighthead prop.
Faingaa and Paenga-Amosa have only six tests appearances between them, but captain Michael Hooper said he was confident they would contribute in what will be a tough encounter for the under-fire Wallabies.
“Our hookers are prepped, our hookers are ready to go. Folau has had a lot of time on the paddock over the last few weeks.
“He has been exposed to some big games, and same with Brandon as well,” Hooper told reporters at Friday’s captain’s run at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“It was unfortunate for the team and for Taf (Polota-Nau), but he has had a bit of an uncomfortable feeling in his hamstring yesterday.”
Hooper said lineouts had been a problem for Australia in recent outings.
“It hasn’t been a functioning part of our team,” he said. “At times it has been okay, but it hasn’t been up to a standard we have been pleased with.
“You can stop our backs from getting the ball and they are dangerous from those starter-plays.
“It isn’t something we have really hit our straps yet with.”
Australia have won only one of four matches in this year’s Rugby Championship, and pressure is increasing on coach Michael Cheika and his players after they lost at home to Argentina earlier this month.
15 Dane Haylett-Petty 14 Israel Folau 13 Reece Hodge 12 Matt Toomua 11 Marika Koroibete 10 Kurtley Beale 9 Will Genia 8 David Pocock 7 Michael Hooper (captain) 6 Ned Hanigan 5 Izack Rodda 4 Adam Coleman 3 Taniela Tupou 2 Folau Faingaa, 1 Scott Sio.
Bench: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa 17 Sekope Kepu 18 Allan Alaalatoa 19 Rory Arnold 20 Rob Simmons 21 Nick Phipps 22 Bernard Foley 23 Jack Maddocks.