Henry Speight says he is refreshed and ready to show what he’s learned from a year in the Australian rugby sevens program as he and touring roommate Sefa Naivalu stake their claims for Wallabies selection.
The Fijian-born wingers are fighting for a likely bench spot in the Rugby Championship clash against an out-of-form South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday (Sunday morning AEST).
Speight hasn’t played a Test since last year’s World Cup pool game against Uruguay, having set his sights on the Rio Olympics immediately after the tournament.
The 28-year-old’s dream was shattered by a medial ligament strain approximately two months out from the event – but now fully fit and recovered, Speight said it was still a “worthwhile” experience.
“I can say that I really took a lot out of that and can’t thank the Australian sevens program enough,” Speight told reporters on Tuesday in Johannesburg.
“Coming back, the body’s in good nick, the transition hasn’t been too hard, which is pretty good.
“I’m happy to be back in the fold, in the Wallabies camp and hopefully I can get a run with my roomie.”
Naivalu, 24, finally became eligible to represent Australia on Monday, having waited three long years to fulfill residency requirements.
In choosing to represent the Wallabies, he also turned down the chance to win gold with Fiji’s Olympic sevens team – a decision he says he is well and truly at peace with.
“I guess there’s a lot of reason to it. Playing for Australia was part of my dream,” Naivalu said.
“If I get that opportunity, I’ll take it. I won’t hesitate or question it or never regret anything.
“I’ll give everything I can give for Australia.”
Both players, and Naivalu in particular, offer raw speed – a quality the Wallabies are sorely lacking at the moment, despite solid recent performances from incumbents Reece Hodge and Dane Haylett-Petty, who each made their international debuts this year and neither of whom are natural wingers.
Naivalu famously clocked a 10.5sec 100m sprint as a schoolboy and is arguably one of the fastest men in Australian rugby.
Coach Michael Cheika has included him in numerous training camps this year but Naivalu is none the wiser if he will get a run at Loftus Versfeld, where the Wallabies have never won before.
“He’s difficult to read at the moment. I’m just going to wait and hopefully he’ll give me a message or call,” he said.