Hodge, Lolesio return among Wallabies changes for Springboks

August 25, 2022 GMT
Argentina's Santiago Carreras is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge during their rugby championship match, in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
Argentina's Santiago Carreras is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge during their rugby championship match, in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
Argentina's Santiago Carreras is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge during their rugby championship match, in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
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Argentina's Santiago Carreras is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge during their rugby championship match, in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
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Argentina's Santiago Carreras is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge during their rugby championship match, in Mendoza, Argentina, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Reece Hodge has been named at fullback for the Wallabies in anticipation of an aerial assault from South Africa in their Rugby Championship match at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.

The 57-test veteran replaces Tom Wright in the No. 15 jersey and Noah Lolesio replaces James O’Connor at flyhalf in two of the six changes made by head coach Dave Rennie in the wake of a 48-17 loss to Argentina in San Juan two weeks ago.

Australia’s back three was badly exposed by the Pumas’ contestable kicking game, with Hodges’ selection designed to counter anything similar from the World Cup champion Springboks.

“South Africa’s got a good kicking game and they will back their (defense), so we’ve got to make sure we can win that air battle,” Rennie said Thursday. “Hodge at the back gives us a big kicking game, which we reckon will be important.

“His ability to identify space and find grass in behind them with his booming boot is a big part of the reason we picked him. We certainly know what’s coming and we’re going to have to get in front of that, bring a lot of physicality and kick smart.”

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Elevated from the Australia A squad after a season-ending injury to Tom Banks, Hodge started at fullback in the narrow third-test loss to England and came off the bench in the two tests in Argentina.

Wright shifts back to the right wing and Marika Koroibete will be on the left edge.

After returning to Australia early from Argentina for a family bereavement, Allan Alaalatoa will start at tight head in a front row containing Folau Fainga’a at hooker and captain James Slipper, who plays his 120th test, at loosehead.

The loose-forward combination remains unchanged for the third consecutive test with Jed Holloway on the blindside flank, Fraser McReight on the openside and Rob Valetini at No. 8.

Nic White will partner Noah Lolesio in the halves.

“It’s great to have a number of experienced players back in the mix this weekend,” Rennie said. “We understand that respect is earned daily and we get an opportunity to earn it against the current world champions. It’s really motivating to be back at home in front of our supporters, especially in Adelaide, a place we haven’t played at in 18 years.”

The Wallabies are unbeaten in their last seven tests at home against the Springboks, who haven’t won in Australia since 2013.

South Africa is coming off a loss to the All Blacks at Johannesburg and made two changes to its starting XV — Faf de Klerk returns at scrumhalf and Warrick Gelant was given a start on the wing.

De Klerk is available again after missing the loss to New Zealand because of concussion and he replaces Jaden Hendrikse, who dropped to the bench. Gelant replaced Jesse Kriel, who sustained a head injury against the All Blacks.

Argentina is the surprise leader of the Rugby Championship standings after two rounds and is ahead of Australia on points difference. All four teams have won once and lost once but Argentina and Australia have taken a bonus point from their first two games.

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Lineups:

Australia: Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete, Noah Loesio, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Fraser McReight, Jed Holloway, Matt Philip, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper (captain). Reserves: David Porecki, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Darcy Swain, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Andrew Kellaway.

South Africa: Damian Willemse, Warrick Gelant, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche. Reserves: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Jaden Hendrikse, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn.

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