Wal­la­bies Need The Real Speight To Rise At Lof­tus

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The Wal­la­bies need the real Henry Speight to rise from a traf­fic jam of Fi­jian fly­ers to break their hoodoo at Pre­to­ria’s Lof­tus Vers­feld. As ever, coach Michael Cheika is jug­gling his thoughts on how to max­imise his weapons for the Test against a cor­nered South African side in a dan­ger­ous mood. Winger Speight’s dash will be an as­set from the bench should Cheika de­cide to re­vert to a 5-3 split of for­wards and backs for Sun­day morn­ing. What the coach wants most of all is the re­turn of the un­stop­pable Speight of 2012-13 when he scored 16 tries for the ACT Brumbies across that pe­riod.

Cheika has se­lected Speight, 28, for five Tests over the past two years and only been given glimpses of his best. Every­one knows what he is ca­pa­ble of. Speight is one of the few Aus­tralian play­ers to have savoured the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of suc­cess at Lof­tus Vers­feld, a renowned fortress for the Spring­boks.

He ig­nited the Brumbies’ su­perb 26-23 semi­fi­nal upset of the Bulls there in 2013 by set­ting up the open­ing try. A pis­ton-like fend, a swerve through an­other hapless de­fender and a bril­liant one-handed flip pass put Jesse Mogg over. Cheika wants com­pe­ti­tion for spots but he also wants play­ers buy­ing into each other’s suc­cess. He has roomed Speight this week on tour with fel­low Fi­jian winger and new­comer Sefa Naivalu. Speight feels fresh and ready to grab any Test chances for the rest of the year now his stint in sev­ens is fin­ished. “The sev­ens ex­pe­ri­ence was def­i­nitely worth­while for the year and I can’t thank the Aus­tralian Sev­ens enough,” Speight said. “The tran­si­tion has been pretty good and I’m ex­cited to be back in the fold with the Wal­la­bies.” No Wal­la­bies side has won at Lof­tus Vers­feld since the coun­tries played the first of their six Tests there in 1963. Being the first team to triumph there is an easy goal to set but much harder to do with Morne Steyn or Pat Lam­bie to add ex­tra ex­pe­ri­ence at No. 10 for the Spring­boks this week­end. “We know the Boks are a to­tally dif­fer­ent beast at home and they’ll come out fir­ing,” Speight said. “Lof­tus is a tough place to come and play. “It’s a sort of a fortress for them but, in say­ing that, we got a lot of con­fi­dence from our last win with five tries, the way our play­mak­ers played and our de­fence hold­ing out Ar­gentina (in Perth).”

This is the first Test for which the pacy Naivalu, 24, is qual­i­fied af­ter meet­ing three-year res­i­dency re­quire­ments. He is hun­gry to make his mark just as Mel­bourne Storm’s Marika Koroi­bete will be when he joins the Fi­jian wing race at the Wal­la­bies af­ter play­ing in Sun­day’s NRL grand fi­nal.

“If I get an op­por­tu­nity I’ll take it. Play­ing for Aus­tralia was part of my dream.” Naivalu said.

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