Wallabies Need The Real Speight To Rise At Loftus
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.