The changes came in quick succession, with Wallabies manager Dave Rennie making six changes – and seven position changes – to his side for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks.
Rather than being a sign of desperation, the vast majority are first-choice players returning after the Wallabies have been hit hard on and off the pitch in recent months. Could Rennie have been bolder? Absolutely.
But the returns of Noah Lolesio and Reece Hodge speak volumes about where this Wallabies side stands under third-year international coach Rennie.
Both were set for the Argentina tour, where the Wallabies started with a bang and then fell off a cliff in the second Test in San Juan, but Lolesio was dropped and Hodge came off the bench in both encounters.
How the pair perform will have a say in who emerges victorious, with the Wallabies poised to be at full strength up front with only Angus Bell and skipper Michael Hooper missing.
In the absence of Quade Cooper (Achilles) and James O’Connor (retired), Lolesio is back in charge.
But it still feels like Lolesio is yet to graduate as an apprentice, with Rennie hesitant to back the 22-year-old in the international cauldron.
So far he’s had another chance in what will be his 13th Test and his fourth in 2022, with Japan’s Bernard Foley to continue catching up after only joining the team on Sunday.
Hodge, meanwhile, is resuming his own roller coaster career where he was brought in to try and resolve the fullback crisis.
It’s not the first time he’s worn the No.15 shirt, but his own failure to land the role has seen him add to the uncertainty that plagues the role.
He will face a few tougher tests than standing at the back against the Springboks.
Last year at Brisbane, the versatile full-back struggled under the high ball.
Still, he was brought in because Tom Wright, who was given a reprieve on the right wing, was brutally exposed at the back by Argentina and Hodge backed in to fend off the heavy Boks.
Hunter Paisami, meanwhile, adds some starch to midfield, returning to inside center after missing the 48-17 loss with a concussion.
Forward and hooker Folau Fainga’a (concussion) and Allan Alaalatoa (personal reasons) return after also missing the test, making it an all-Brumbies first tier.
Matt Philip joins Rory Arnold in the second row, while the back row remains the same with Hooper still missing.
Rennie once again opted for a bench-heavy six-two forward split, with Hodge to cover the opener position.
Hooker Dave Porecki (concussion) and prop Scott Sio (shoulder) join Taniela Tupou on the bench.
Lock Darcy Swain returns to the bench and joins Rob Leota and Pete Samu as the substitute forward five.
As versatile full-back Andrew Kellaway joins livewire half-back Tate McDermott as two replacement full-backs.
The Wallabies haven’t been beaten by the Springboks at home since 2013, but that stat will come under firm pressure on Saturday.
Jacques Nienaber’s side have just won two Tests against the All Blacks, the last of which they lost 35-23 in a thriller at Ellis Park. This means the world champions will be after blood, with the TRC up for grabs with just one point separating the four Southern Hemisphere powers.
For the Wallabies, Saturday’s test is shaping up to be an important test on the road to next year’s World Cup in France.
There are only 14 tests left before the opening of the Wallabies World Cup and Marika Koroibete and Rob Valetini are the only two players certain from the XV named to face the Springboks.
The Wallabies team will face the Springboks
1. James Slipper (c) (119 tries)
2. Folau Fainga’a (30 events)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (56 tries)
4. Rory Arnold (30 tries)
5. Matt Philip (24 tries)
6. Jed Holloway (2 tries)
7. Fraser McReight (4 tries)
8. Rob Valetini (23 tries)
9. Nic White (52 tries)
10. Noah Lolesio (12 tries)
11. Marika Koroibete (47 tries)
12. Paisami Hunter (18 events)
13. Len Ikitau (17 tries)
14. Tom Wright (14 tries)
15. Reece Hodge (57 tries)
16. David Porecki (3 tries)
17. Scott Sio (71 tries)
18. Taniela Tupou (42 tries)
19. Darcy Swain (13 tries)
20. Rob Leota (10 tries)
21. Pete Samu (24 tries)
22. Tate McDermott (17 tries)
23. Andrew Kellaway (14 tries)