Melbourne, Wellington: Tatafu Polota-Nau is the only hooker in the Australia camp with any World Cup experience but knows he has work to do to secure a spot in Michael Cheika’s squad for Japan.
The 33-year-old started last season as the incumbent number two but fell back in the pecking order as Cheika opted to try Tolu Latu and Folau Fainga’a during the season-ending tour of Europe.
He was left out of Cheika’s initial 34-man squad for the Rugby Championship but has returned to the Wallabies camp ahead of the second match against Argentina in Brisbane on Saturday after undergoing treatment on a foot injury.
Fainga’a started in the opening 35-17 loss against South Africa in Johannesburg last week, with three-Test rake Jordan Uelese in the reserves.
Latu is also waiting his chance so Polota-Nau has plenty of competition to beat in his bid to get to a third World Cup.
“I must say I feel like a new student, really,” he said in Brisbane on Wednesday.
“But it’s great to be back, all the boys have welcomed me with open arms.
“In terms of the hooking spot there’s a lot of competition but that’s all we can ask for really because at the end of the day we want the best guy stepping up to the number two spot.
South Africa, meanwhile, named a full-strength team for the weekend clash with New Zealand, featuring 12 changes to the starting XV that defeated Australia last week.
The side was always going to be vastly different to the one that downed Australia 35-17 after coach Rassie Erasmus sent his key players to Wellington early to prepare to face the world champions.
Only wing Makazole Mapimpi and forwards Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit survive from the starting line-up that triumphed in Johannesburg.
Veteran number eight Duane Vermeulen will lead the Boks in a match that sees both sides desperate to gain advantage ahead of their blockbuster World Cup opening match in Japan on September 21.