NSW Waratahs playmaker Kurtley Beale has welcomed the return of abrasive flanker Jacques Potgieter for the crucial Super Rugby clash with the Lions at Ellis Park.
South African Potgieter has missed the past two weeks with a sternum injury and has been named on the bench for Saturday’s (Sunday AEST) game in Johannesburg.
The Waratahs go into the match trailing the Brumbies by one point in the Australian conference after the Canberra-based side’s win over the Bulls on Friday night.
The Lions will be just as desperate to win with the hosts two points behind the Stormers in the South African conference.
Potgieter’s return couldn’t come at a better time for the Waratahs after powerhouse lock Will Skelton and hooker Tolu Latu lost their appeals against a suspension for a tip tackle on the Crusaders’ Sam Whitelock.
“He’s been very influential in the way we play the game … he loves playing against his countrymen and it will fire him up a little bit and that will hopefully rub off on the rest of the squad,” Beale told AAP.
“Willie and Tolu have been an integral part of our team … big dominant forces in our game that create that go forward.
“I’m not going to deny the fact we’ll miss them, but in saying that we’ve got so much faith in the guys coming in.”
Mitchell Chapman replaces Skelton in his 100th Super Rugby appearance while hooker Hugh Roach makes his debut with Test rake Tatafu Polota-Nau being rested after his second concussion this season.
“We’ve got some good young blokes coming through who have been working very hard for these opportunities,” Beale said.
“A bonus is they all understand the way we want to play the game and that’s a credit to the boys who have been nurturing those guys coming through, including Willie and Tolu.”
Former Wallaby Dean Mumm returns to the Waratahs’ ranks on the bench after a stint with English club Exeter.
“We’re lucky to have somebody with a wealth of experience like him,” Beale said.
Waratahs (15-1): Israel Folau, Taqele Naiyaravor, Adam Ashley-Cooper (vc), Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (vc), Stephen Hoiles, Dave Dennis (capt), Mitchell Chapman, Sekope Kepu, Hugh Roach, Benn Robinson. Res: David Porecki, Jeremy, Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Jacques Potgieter, Dean Mumm, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Matt Carraro.