Sharpe eyes SA Test

2011-08-04 08:36
Nathan Sharpe (Gallo)
Sydney - Discarded Wallabies veteran Nathan Sharpe's hopes of a third Rugby World Cup have been boosted with the 95-Test lock given a boarding pass for the trip to South Africa.

Sharpe was this week a shock omission from Australia's 24-man travel party to New Zealand, seemingly leaving him No 5 in the second-row pecking order just a fortnight before Robbie Deans names his World Cup squad.

But Deans on Thursday revealed the 33-year-old Force captain would get one last audition when the Wallabies meet the Springboks in Durban on August 13.

The early indication is Sharpe would likely play off the bench, as fellow veteran Dan Vickerman will in his Tri Nations return against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday night.

Deans said he'd planned to ensure both have enough match time under their belts by alternating them in the two away Tests and allowing them to play a full club match.

While Vickerman will get 80 minutes for Sydney University the following weekend, Sharpe will line up for Queensland University this Saturday.

"He's getting 80 minutes of rugby this weekend which is important to him and us and then he's already got a ticket with a bag packed to Africa - he's in the squad," Deans said.

Rookie lock Sitaleki Timani, who has signed a Japanese deal which precludes him from playing club football, is in Auckland and is expected to again be picked in the 26-man travel squad to Durban for development purposes.

Only Reds duo James Horwill and Rob Simmons are the second-row certainties in a hot six-man field, also including Dean Mumm, vying for four lock spots in the 30-man Cup squad.

Horwill has little doubt Sharpe will bounce back from this week's omission.

"He's a quality player and has been for a long time so he'll certainly be around to play Test matches later on this year," he said.

Deans, who included Vickerman as one of three changes to his bench for Saturday night's clash with the All Blacks, likes the towering 203cm Waratah's "relentless approach" as he returns from three years studying at Cambridge and playing in England.

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