Beale replaces the injured Quade Cooper and is the only change to the team that staged a comeback 23-19 win over Argentina two weeks ago and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said he had full confidence that the former fullback will be able to dictate play in a tactically astute fashion.
“Kurtley is one of the better kickers in our side and I have no concerns over his capacity to do what we want him to do. He’s played a lot of flyhalf alongside scrumhalf Nick Phipps at the Melbourne Rebels, so it’s an established combination.
“If you look at both backlines, the match should clearly be a good spectacle, I expect both sides to be positive and because of the conditions, it’s likely to be pretty expansive,” Deans told a news conference in Pretoria on Thursday.
Captain and lock Sharpe is playing his 110th Test and will draw level with former flanker George Smith as Australia’s most-capped forward and Robinson will earn his 50th cap, becoming just the third Wallaby prop to reach that landmark, after Ewen McKenzie and Al Baxter.
Australia won their last match against South Africa 26-19 in Perth three weeks ago, but struggled badly in the first half, while they trailled Argentina by 13 points at one stage on the Gold Coast before rallying.
Deans said although he was delighted by the team’s character in those victories, it was vital that Saturday’s Test did not follow the same path at one of Springbok rugby’s fortresses, where Australia have not won in five previous attempts.
“The response under duress was excellent, but it’s a circumstance we don’t want to put ourselves under again even though we have the belief to get out of it. We will need to play much better up front, we made life much harder for ourselves in the last two games,” Deans said.
Tatafu Polota-Nau, the Wallabies hooker, said the Springbok forwards would be fired up by the 50 000-strong Loftus Versfeld crowd.
“They’re going to thrive on that 16th man that home advantage is, it’s a big player. Their forward pack is full of big guys and we’re going to have to be up front and ensure we give them no space to work with,” Polota-Nau said.
To reflect the massive battle between the two packs, Deans has chosen a 5-2 split on the replacements’ bench, with lock Rob Simmons the extra forward filling the space created by Beale’s promotion.
South Africa have also made a change at flyhalf, with the 20-year-old Johan Goosen also making his first start, in place of the out-of-form Morne Steyn, a seasoned match-winner for the Springboks in previous years.
“No doubt the Springboks will have some tweeks to their game plan because you don’t make such a strategic change without playing to the strengths of the players involved,” Deans said.
Team – 15-Berrick Barnes, 14-Dominic Shipperley, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Pat McCabe, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-Kurtley Beale, 9-Nick Phipps, 8-Radike Samo, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Dave Dennis, 5-Nathan Sharpe, 4-Kane Douglas, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-Benn Robinson. Reserves: 16-Saia Fainga’a, 17-James Slipper, 18-Rob Simmons, 19-Scott Higginbotham, 20-Liam Gill, 21-Brett Sheehan, 22-Anthony Fainga’a.