Cape Town - Perennial squad member Saia Fainga’a is determined to make the most of his opportunity after ending a four-year wait for an Australia Test start against South Africa on Saturday.
The 27-year-old will be the fifth hooker in the last eight Wallaby Tests in what is fast becoming a jinxed position.
He was selected ahead of his Reds teammate James Hanson and coach Ewen McKenzie made it clear that Fainga’a was being picked for his expertise at the set pieces.
"Obviously I did not wish for the others to be injured but life is all about opportunity and mine is here again now and I must take it," Fainga’a said of Tafu Polota-Nau's ankle fracture and Stephen Moore's cruciate ligament rupture.
Since making his debut in 2010, and starting seven of his first 11 Tests, Fainga’a has sat on the bench for 18 straight matches.
The last of his 29 caps came in a run-out of just four minutes against Scotland at Murrayfield last November.
He had slumped to sixth in the pecking order of Wallaby hookers but gets his chance after McKenzie made three changes to the team that beat Argentina 32-25 two weeks ago for Australia's penultimate clash of the tournament.
"It's been a long time but in saying that I've been waiting.
"It hasn't been that easy but it's made me hungrier, especially considering we have a World Cup coming up," Fainga’a said before Saturday's match at Newlands.
"You don't realise how hard it is to get something until you've lost it.
"I feel like a kid again getting back in the team, getting the kit back on and I'm really enjoying my rugby again and enjoying being back part of the group.
"I had a lot of things on my mind at the start of the year and maybe that's why I lost impetus.
"The main factor was complacency. But now I want to be consistent and make sure our whole performance is consistent."
Fainga’a's reliability in the scrums and line-outs was singled out as the reason for his selection.
"The set piece is always an important area of focus for us," said McKenzie on Thursday, "even more so when you play South Africa, and we know the outcome of the scrums and lineouts will be crucial to the final result.
"Injuries have allowed opportunity for people and guys must make the most of that."
"I think facing the best line-out in world rugby is really just a good opportunity," added Fainga’a.
"I pride myself on my throwing at the line-outs, so it's all about consistency and making sure I bring that consistency from the training field to the pitch on Saturday."
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 JP Pietersen
15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Substitutes: 16 James Hanson, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nic White, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Rob Horne