Wallabies opt for experienced backline
June 14, 2007

Wallabies Coach John Connolly has today announced his team to take on South Africa in the opening Tri Nations and Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate clash in Cape Town this Saturday.

Connolly has opted for his most experienced backline combination and has selected a near full strength lineup as the Wallabies look to end a six-year drought in South Africa.

Veteran halves pairing George Gregan and Stephen Larkham will play their final Tests on South African soil, while Matt Giteau returns to his customary role of inside centre alongside captain Stirling Mortlock in the midfield.

The Wallabies have played seven Tests since the star four last appeared in typical formation, with their most recent outing as a midfield unit occurring in Johannesburg for the final Tri Nations Test against the Springboks last year.

Lote Tuqiri and Drew Mitchell retain their places on the wing, following Tuqiri's triumphant return to the Test arena in a two-try performance against Fiji in Perth last weekend.

In the forward pack, Connolly will look to veteran lock pairing Nathan Sharpe and Dan Vickerman to counter the powerful Springboks lineout.

Sharpe and Vickerman started all six Tri Nations matches for the Wallabies in 2006, but have played together in just one of the Wallabies three Tests this season, against Wales in Brisbane just over a fortnight ago.

In the front row Guy Shepherdson will start at tighthead prop, while Matt Dunning retains his place at loosehead prop with Stephen Moore getting the nod at hooker.

George Smith has once again been rotated into the starting team and will wear the Number 7 jersey and vice captain the side on Saturday while Phil Waugh joins the reserves bench.

Waratahs teammates Rocky Elsom and Wycliff Palu return to their starting positions at blindside flanker and Number 8 respectively, after resting from last week's clash with Fiji to get an early start on their preparation for the opening Tri Nations clash.

Connolly said the Wallabies face their toughest match of the year against the Springboks on Saturday.

"South African Rugby is in a pretty good space at the moment, probably in the best shape it's been for some time," said Connolly.

"The Springboks are brimming with confidence after the success of their Super 14 teams and their Test wins over England and will be an enormous challenge for us," he said.

Connolly said his team was not focused on its poor recent record in the republic.

"We're definitely not looking at the past or the reasons why we haven't been successful here. We're very much focused on this Test and continuing to build on our performances in Australia," said Connolly.

"I think we're in for an extremely competitive Tri Nations between three strong teams."

Australia is the current holder of the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate after winning two of the three Tests between the two Nations in 2006.

Saturday 16 June 2007
Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa
Kick off: 3.00pm local, 11.00pm AEST

Matt Dunning
Stephen Moore
Guy Shepherdson
Nathan Sharpe
Dan Vickerman
Rocky Elsom
George Smith (vc)
Wycliff Palu
George Gregan
Stephen Larkham
Lote Tuqiri
Matt Giteau
Stirling Mortlock (c)
Drew Mitchell
Julian Huxley

Adam Freier
Al Baxter
Mark Chisholm
Stephen Hoiles
Phil Waugh (vc)
Adam Ashley-Cooper
Mark Gerrard

Members of the 25-man touring squad not selected in the match 22: Sam Cordingley, Benn Robinson, Scott Staniforth.

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