'Fresh meat' Uelese a rising star for Wallabies
JORDAN Uelese defied the "fresh meat” taunts from the leering hardheads of the Springboks pack to emerge as a future gem for the Wallabies from a Perth Test with no winners.
Five years from now when the unedifying 23-all draw with the Springboks is forgotten, the 18 minutes played by this massive 120kg unit will hopefully be seen as the huge win that launched an influential Test career.
The powerfully-framed Uelese, 20, is the man to take the baton as Australia's next long-term hooking project although he will step back from the reserves for Saturday's tough Test against Argentina in Canberra now three-time dad Stephen Moore is available again.
Veteran Moore is toasting the birth of baby Lawrence in Brisbane last week but the Boks had no plans to be so gentle with the baby of the Wallabies pack last Saturday night.
"Definitely, the Springboks really chatted up from the start when I came on with 'fresh meat' and those kind of chats but it was awesome just to be in the thick of it,” Uelese said.
His explosive 15m first-up run, a solid first scrum and his overt hand-clapping for teammates were real positives when you consider he could have been an insecure church mouse after playing just 28 minutes of Super Rugby for the Melbourne Rebels.
One wobbly lineout throw must be the concern for coach Michael Cheika because that technical glitch was also the one handbrake on Tatafu Polota-Nau and Phil Kearns turning more quickly from tyros into true Test aces.
Uelese fought back tears as he sang the pre-Test national anthem to his Kiwi parents Sekati and mum Kolotita in the grandstand.
"Donning the gold, it doesn't feel real just yet,” Uelese said immediately after his debut.
"It's awesome that Cheik brought me in at such an early stage to feed off the senior guys, like Moorey, who have been at the level for 100-plus caps because they got into my head and made it a bit easier.
"My phone's been going nuts, notifications left, right and centre. Pre-game I was still copping messages so I had to turn it off so I wasn't eaten up by that.
"The adrenaline rush was huge. I was pretty nervous at first but honestly it happened so quick I just had to go on and get straight into fifth gear.
"My No.1 goal in life was to put on that gold jersey and to fulfil that...I've got to go find new goals now.”
Frustratingly, Cheika's men still have to get all their old goals sorted out and stay in fifth gear for longer because it was a Test squandered from a 20-10 lead.
Centre standout Kurtley Beale hunted with the right intensity for 80 minutes, a sharp veering try, smart work when stepping into first receiver and a shrewd 35m kick to the corner when things were tense at 20-all.
"Kurtley has been unbelievable since he's been back...he's killed it, carved it up, and he's bitterly disappointed in that dressing room,” Cheika said.
"We all need that same attitude of wanting it a lot and staying at it.”
The Wallabies messed up that lineout challenge on the Boks tryline after the Beale kick and it became back-to-back errors at the lineout and scrum which crushed momentum.
The five-try punch landed on the All Blacks in Dunedin suggested this Test should have been grabbed by the neck but again a rival finished more strongly against Australian inconsistency.
"It's never a clean path in one direction (with improvement). We believe in what we're doing but those lack of concentration (moments) brought them back into the Test,” Cheika said.