The Wallabies have rushed Tatafu Polota-Nau and Kyle Godwin back from knee injuries to include them in their Rugby Championship squad.
Ewen McKenzie has shown his immense regard for luckless centre Kyle Godwin by rushing the Western Force young gun into his Wallabies squad.
Godwin, to return from a long-term knee injury in Perth on Sunday, is a shock outside chance of making a hometown Test debut against South Africa next week at Patersons Stadium.
McKenzie included the 22-year-old, along with injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, in a revised 30-man squad for Australia’s Rugby Championship clashes with the Springboks and Argentina.
The Wallabies’ coach had been poised to call up Zimbabwe-born Godwin before last year’s Spring Tour and this year’s France series until shoulder and knee injuries struck.
The former Australian U20 five-eighth’s latest problem, a torn posterior cruciate ligament, has sidelined him for more than three months.
But it hasn’t stopped McKenzie – who views Godwin as a possible outside centre down the track – making the surprise selection.
“We’ve been impressed with him for some time. He just hasn’t been available at the right time,” he said.
“We want to see him and put him in among some of the players and see what he’s like.
“He’s been playing as a 12 and defending at 13 and we’re interested in him as a 13, long term, so we’ll have a look at him.”
A stunned Godwin, to make his comeback for Perth Spirit in the National Rugby Championship (NRC), did not see the call-up coming.
“It’s still sinking in, to be honest,” he said. “It was certainly a surprise.”
With Pat McCabe set to announce his retirement due to a career-ending neck injury, and lingering hamstring problems for Henry Speight and Joe Tomane, McKenzie chose to add another centre rather than winger to his squad.
The decision further suggests Adam Ashley-Cooper will revert to the wing against the Springboks with Tevita Kuridrani promoted to No.13, and Peter Betham likely to beat Godwin to a bench spot.
Godwin will be among six squad members to play in the NRC this weekend, including former Test skipper James Horwill and fellow lock Will Skelton.
Skelton will play 80 minutes for the Sydney Stars while Horwill will be given half a match for Brisbane City as they both look to unseat second-row starters Rob Simmons and Sam Carter.
McKenzie said both were in the mix following the bitter 51-20 defeat to the All Blacks and wanted to see the 135kg Skelton, an impact player off the bench, turn into a starter.
Polota-Nau’s return comes with Nathan Charles ruled out for the rest of the year with a pectoral strain sustained at Eden Park.
With Polota-Nau still recovering from a knee injury and aiming to return against the Pumas on September 13, fourth-string rake James Hanson is set to start against the big South African pack which has come off two close wins over Argentina.
Backs – Israel Folau, Peter Betham, Rob Horne, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Kyle Godwin, Christian Leali’ifano, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Nic White, Nick Phipps, Luke Burgess.
Forwards – Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper (capt), Matt Hodgson, Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, James Horwill, Sam Carter, Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Ben Alexander, James Slipper, Pek Cowan, James Hanson, Saia Fainga’a, Tatafu Polota-Nau.