Christian Lealiifano won’t be there to see it but he’s backing his Brumbies teammate Tom Banks to handle the Springboks at the Ellis Park cauldron in the Rugby Championship Test on Saturday.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is yet to announce who will fill the fullback vacancy left by Israel Folau’s axing but Banks has put up his hand with some strong performances to help the Brumbies into the Super Rugby semi-finals.
Five-eighth Lealiifano was set to play his first Test since 2016 when he was diagnosed with leukaemia but in a blow for the team he failed to recover from a lingering shoulder injury and has been sent home from Johannesburg.
Banks played three Tests last year off the bench and Lealiifano felt he was ready to step up into a starting jersey.
He didn’t think the 25-year-old would be overawed by the occasion if he got the chance to play at Ellis Park, where the Wallabies haven’t won since 1963, and where the Springboks claimed the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
“I definitely feel he’s ready and hopefully he does get a crack,” Lealiifano said of Banks.
“This year he’s been in outstanding form all year.”
With a playing style often likened to former Wallabies fullback Chris Latham, Banks possesses an electric turn of speed that Lealiifano joked he’d love to have.
Apart from his obvious talents, Lealiifano said players loved the toughness in Banks and felt it would set him up well for success against the Springboks.
“He’s got a lot of speed and he’s tough,” Lealiifano said.
“I think he will cope well with Test level because of his toughness and his work ethic.
“He’s a bloke who never gives up.”
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