PRETORIA (Reuters) - Sean McMahon is to start at number eight in place of the injured David Pocock in the only change to Australia’s starting lineup for the Rugby Championship tussle against South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday.
The 22-year-old McMahon, who has 11 caps, has been tipped as long-term replacement in the position for Pocock, who suffered a hand injury against Argentina earlier this month and intends to take a sabbatical from the game next year.
Coach Michael Cheika said McMahon’s improved lineout play and strong ball-carrying skills made him a clear choice, believing he will be perfectly suited to the high-altitude conditions at Loftus Versfeld.
“It’s nice for us to be able to add a strong ball carrier into the back row. He’s maybe not as tall as your traditional eight, but he’s starting to get some of the qualities that a traditional eight has... ball carries, a strong tackle, which Poey’s (Pocock) got as well,” Cheika told reporters.
Cheika has named nine possible replacements and will decide later who to omit for the final match-day 23.
Fijian-born wing Sefa Naivalu, who became eligible for Australia on Sept. 18, has been named as a potential replacement and should he make it onto the pitch will become the 900th test cap for the country.
Australia are hoping for a first ever victory in Pretoria having lost all six of their previous visits to Loftus Versveld.
Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Dane Haylett-Petty, 13-Samu Kerevi, 12-Bernard Foley, 11-Reece Hodge, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia, 8-Sean McMahon, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Dean Mumm, 5-Rob Simmons, 4-Adam Coleman, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Stephen Moore (captain), 1-Scott Sio.
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16-James Hanson, 17-James Slipper, 18-Tom Robertson, 19-Kane Douglas, 20-Scott Fardy, 21-Lopeti Timani, 22-Nick Phipps, 23-Tevita Kuridrani, 24-Sefa Naivalu.
Reporting by Nick Said & Mark Gleeson; Editing by John O'Brien