Jono Lance admits it’s impossible to fill Israel Folau’s giant boots, but he’ll give it a good crack for the NSW Waratahs against Super Rugby’s table-topping Sharks.
In a leap of faith, NSW coach Michael Cheika has named Lance – and not Kurtley Beale – to replace Folau at fullback after the Waratahs’ attacking trump was ruled out of Sunday morning’s (AEDT) showdown in Durban with a bruised throat.
Folau, the hottest property in Australian rugby, has been in dazzling form in 2014, crossing for eight tries – more than half of NSW’s total haul – in four games.
It’s a strike rate no player in Super Rugby history has ever matched.
“I’m not going to go out there and try and do what Izzy does. That’s pretty hard to do,” Lance told AAP.
In his first year with the Waratahs, the former Queensland Red will be making his debut for NSW at the Shark Tank.
“I obviously came to NSW to play rugby and to get an opportunity to play at a great stadium this weekend, I’m very pumped,” Lance said.
“I played a lot of fullback at the Reds so it’s definitely a position I feel comfortable with.
“I’ll be looking to bring my skills and use that to help the Waratahs to get a win.”
Lance’s inclusion at fullback is one of six changes made by Cheika from the starting XV that walloped the Melbourne Rebels 32-8 last Friday night.
But the Tahs coach had been tipped to use Beale – a former World Player of the Year nominee while starring for the Wallabies at fullback – in the No.15 jumper.
Instead, Cheika opted not to break up Beale’s midfield combination with five-eighth Bernard Foley, which has helped the Waratahs chalk up three bonus-point wins in four matches.
“The way they’re playing together at the moment is something we don’t want to split up,” Lance said.
“We don’t want one injury to ruin a combination.”
In the only other backline change, former Wallabies centre Rob Horne has been selected on the wing, taking over from Alofa Alofa, with Cheika preferring size and power over fleet of foot for what shapes as a physical encounter with the Sharks.
In the forwards, Benn Robinson is back at loosehead prop in place of Paddy Ryan, while Wycliff Palu will make his 100th appearance for NSW when he runs on at No.8.
Both Robinson and Palu came off the bench against the Rebels.
Palu’s inclusion has forced skipper Dave Dennis back to blindside flanker, with Jacques Potgieter reverting from the back row to second row to partner Kane Douglas.
Big Will Skelton has been relegated to the bench.