‘Thor-lite’ aiming for Springbok redemption
TANIELA Tupou has promised to be at 100 per cent destructive power for his Wallabies return which he hopes can be as soon as Saturday night's redemption Test against South Africa at Suncorp Stadium.
The helpless feeling of being sidelined when the Wallabies were twice being carved up by the All Blacks last month did hurt deeply but being involved as a passenger on a dud hamstring would have helped no one.
It's hard to imagine such a 135kg figure ever being "Tongan Thor Lite" yet the prop knows he needs all his leg drive to be at his best to mince rival front-rows at scrum time, push off powerfully as a ballrunner and launch full-throttle into his tackles.
"It's one of the reasons I didn't want to play the All Blacks because you don't want to play the best in the world at 80 per cent," Tupou said of potentially letting his teammates down.
"I want to go into a Test at 100 per cent to do everything I'm supposed to do, not 80 per cent and be made to look bad.
"If I get the chance to play this weekend, if Cheik (coach Michael Cheika) wants to start me, I'm going to make sure I'm fully ready to go."
Tupou has had acupuncture and even visited Sydney for specialist treatment to advance his recovery which still has a few hurdles to clear.
"I'm doing side-to-side running again and this full training week will be the big test," Tupou said.
The Wallabies scrum did improve at Auckland's Eden Park with Allan Alaalatoa at tighthead prop ahead of 96-Test stalwart Sekope Kepu but it is every explosive add-on that makes the Tupou package so irresistible.
Wallabies flanker Lukhan Tui has been busy evaluating where he can improve but he captured the essence of the Tupou factor.
"He's a game-changer, almost a one-of-a-kind player who always has a big impact," Tui said.
Cheika has named a 31-man squad to prepare for the Springboks and the tough Argentinians on the Gold Coast (September 15) with the addition of Brumbies lock Rory Arnold, Reds hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Reds backrower Caleb Timu.
Champion fullback Israel Folau has made a quicker-than-expected recovery from a twisted ankle. He ran for the first time last Friday and will push his outside chance to play against the Boks.
The coach faces a tricky selection week … whether to make changes because the No.1 team in the world brutally exposed cracks or back basically the same starting line-up as his best and work on improvements.
One spot under the magnifying glass will be Izack Rodda's hold on lock.
Cheika could shuffle Tui from blindside flanker to lock to bring Ned Hanigan or Timu into the backrow, make a straight swap of Arnold for Rodda or build on the upbeat possibilities of the Rodda-Adam Coleman combination.
Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Folau Fainga'a, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (c), Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Caleb Timu, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou.
Backs: Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Matt Toomua.