Rookie Tui next in frame
MICHAEL Cheika said his plan to usher in the Wallabies’ “Gen Next” is firmly on track after naming yet another debutant in the supersized shape of Lukhan Tui.
Tui has been confirmed as an extra forward reserve for Australia on a 6-2 bench designed to match the muscle of the Springboks pack in Bloemfontein early tomorrow morning (AEST).
Although he plays lock for Queensland alongside fellow Wallabies greenhorn Izack Rodda, the 21-year-old is seen as a backrow option as well.
If and when the 120kg Tui gets on the field, he’ll be the 24th debutant for the Wallabies since the 2015 World Cup.
“He (Tui) has had a good season with the Reds and in a game like this, where forward play is going to be ultra-important, there is no better place to get that Test out,” coach Cheika said.
“I know people might say ‘why do you do this with younger guys in this environment?’ But I see these as our talented players. I want to get them time now and give them the experience now. I still think they can perform well.”
Cheika is backing Rodda and Tui in a furnace, with the Boks needing to appease a nation after their 57-0 crash to the All Blacks.
“Retribution will be in the air, no doubt, and we just happen to be the next team in line,” Cheika said.
After tapping firmly into the power of the greybeard for the 2015 World Cup – more than a third of his squad was over 30 – Cheika has spent the past two years rebuilding with youth.
“We are trying to move the team into a different age profile and we have done that,” he said. “We knew there would be some hard yards but we have a base of players now to keep driving.”
Rodda, 21, has paid tribute to the influence of ex-All Blacks hardman Brad Thorn in teaching him the brutal basics of forward play for his first run-on role.
The main message from his contact coach at the Reds?
“Definitely physicality. He prides himself on the game of physicality,” Rodda said.
“You’ve got to be real physical and dominant.”
If you’re going to throw a young lock into battle with the Springboks, a Thorn-forged rookie is as good as you can hope for.