AAP Rugby

Banks takes Folau’s fullback spot for Boks

By AAP Newswire

Tom Banks couldn't be denied first crack at the Wallabies fullback jersey vacated by Israel Folau, according to Australian coach Michael Cheika.

After three Tests off the bench last year, the Brumbies attacking ace has been rewarded with a start in the Wallabies' opening Rugby Championship clash with South Africa on Saturday in Johannesburg.

Folau owned the No.15 spot during his 62 Tests but the deeply religious player had his contract torn up early this year over repeated anti-gay comments he made on social media.

Banks, 25, has relegated Wallabies veteran Kurtley Beale to the bench after helping steer the Brumbies into the Super Rugby semi-finals.

"I don't think you can deny Tom Banks on his form from Super Rugby," Cheika said after announcing his line-up for the match at Ellis Park.

"He's been outstanding for the Brumbies and I'm sure he's going to do well.

"Beale finished the season quite well and he's been outstanding in training and to have a guy of that experience to finish for us is a big plus."

South African coach Rassie Erasmus said the Wallabies were less of an attacking threat without Folau, who regularly dominated the aerial battle to be Australia's leading tryscorer.

They will no doubt test Banks with their kicking game on the highveld.

But Cheika said Banks' unpredictability and turn of speed meant he offered something different, but potentially just as good.

"He reads the game well, he knows where he wants to pop up and attack and he will work hard in defence.

"He's got good pace - there's going to be a lot of kicking threats from South Africa so he will cover that terrain in the back field very well."