Rookie prop battles BJ

Waratah Benn Robinson will make his Test debut at loosehead prop against the Springboks on Saturday.

Western Force back Cameron Shepherd has been selected on the wing to make his first appearance in the Wallaby starting XV.

Robinson, the youngest member of the 2006 Wallaby squad, who celebrated his 22nd birthday just six weeks ago, will be the seventh debutant used by Connolly in nine Tests this season.

Shepherd, who played in the opening three Tests of the season from the reserves bench, has earned his first start following Lote Tuqiri’s suspension for a dangerous tackle during the Wallabies’ loss in Auckland last month.

Saturday’s Test will also mark a significant milestone for two more Wallabies. Vice-captain Stirling Mortlock and lock Nathan Sharpe will share their 50th Test caps.

Connolly had been happy with his team’s preparation since arriving in South Africa last Friday. “We had a great preparation in Sydney last week and the team has trained very well since we arrived in South Africa,” he said.

Connolly said that he was wary of a rejuvenated Springbok outfit after their drought-breaking one-point victory over New Zealand in Phokeng last weekend.

“The Springboks really tightened up their game against the All Blacks last week and would have gained a considerable confidence boost from the win,” he said. “We know we are in for an extremely tough match and we will need to produce a really strong 80 minutes to beat them,” he added.

Connolly said that his team would not be using altitude as an excuse for a below-par performance, despite the fact that the Wallabies have not won on the highveld in 43 years.

“We will have had eight days preparing at altitude before the Test so we won’t be using (the altitude) as an excuse for a poor performance on Saturday,” he said.

Wallaby team to play the Springboks: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Clyde Rathbone, 13 Stirling Mortlock (vice-captain), 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan (captain); 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman (vice-captain), 4 Nathan Sharpe, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Jeremy Paul, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tai McIsaac, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 George Smith, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Mark Gerrard, 22 Scott Staniforth.