Australia captain Michael Hooper acknowledged the Wallabies have "a lot to look at" after their heavy defeat to South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

Inspired by debutant Herschel Jantjies in Johannesburg on Saturday, South Africa cruised to a 35-17 win at Ellis Park.

South Africa capitalised on Taniela Tupou's's yellow card to run away with the game in the second half, though it was a much closer encounter prior to the interval.

Indeed, had Dane Haylett-Petty - who scored Australia's first try - taken a great chance just after the half hour, the Wallabies would likely have lead at the break.

And though Hooper was happy with Australia's attacking performance in the first half, he conceded they must learn their lessons from the defeat, with New Zealand and Argentina still to come before the World Cup in Japan.

"South Africa controlled the second half so well," Hooper said.

"We had a few opportunities in the first half which would have created a different picture but pat on the back to the South African team who controlled the ball and took advantage of the yellow card and took the match away.

"Our attack in the first half was world-class. We showed a lot of different pictures but the reality is those things didn't happen and we were left with them doubling our points. There's a lot to look at."

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus, however, was not pleased with how his side performed despite the convincing victory.

"A few guys certainly put their hands up for World Cup selection, but from a team performance perspective, this isn't how we want to play," he said.

Herschel Jantjies starred with two tries on his South Africa debut as the Springboks overcame Australia 35-17 in the Rugby Championship opener in Johannesburg.

South Africa's stand-in captain Eben Etzebeth lauded the 23-year-old in the build-up to Saturday's encounter, and the scrum-half put in an inspired display at Ellis Park.

Having opened the scoring in the 11th minute, Jantjies played a crucial role in South Africa's second try from Lood De Jager before capping his stirring display with another five-pointer just after the hour.

Dane Haylett-Petty got on the board for Australia, although he missed a golden chance to put the Wallabies in front heading into the break.

And the Springboks made their good fortune count - Taniela Tupou's yellow card proving costly for Australia as S'busiso Nkosi and Jantjies ran in while the Wallabies were down to 14 - with Cobus Reinach's late try ensuring a bonus point.

With the tournament shortened to three rounds due to the upcoming World Cup, Australia's chances of success already look slim, and the pressure seems to be mounting on coach Michael Cheika.

Australia looked in good shape when they forced an early line-out deep in South Africa's half, but found themselves behind a minute later when Jantjies rounded off a wonderful counter following fine wing play from Nkosi.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto saw a try disallowed as Australia rallied, with the Wallabies handed a boost when Andre Esterhuizen was sent to the sin bin after 20 minutes.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, it was South Africa who struck next - De Jager forcing the ball down after Jantjies had been hauled down a metre out.

Haylett-Petty exploited a gap in South Africa's line to reduce the deficit to four points before the half-hour mark, but the Australia winger was later left red-faced when he fumbled what looked to be a simple pick-up on the Springboks line.

Australia failed to pick up where they left off following the break and were fortunate when Elton Jantjies - whose kicking had been on point in the first half - failed to convert a penalty.

Tupou's dangerous lunge during a ruck reduced Australia to 14 men soon after, and South Africa wasted little time in capitalising when Nkosi dived over in the corner before Jantjies helped himself to a second try.

Jantjies was taken off to a standing ovation soon after, and though Bernard Foley's try and subsequent conversion threatened to make things interesting, Reinach added further gloss to a convincing triumph after the hooter had blown.

Brian O'Driscoll has hailed Joe Schmidt for working "wonders" with Ireland and hopes the head coach can end his tenure by lifting the Rugby World Cup.

Schmidt will step down after the tournament in Japan, with Andy Farrell, part of his coaching team, stepping up to replace him.

Current boss Schmidt, 53, was named World Rugby Coach of the Year last November and has taken Ireland to another level since taking over in 2013.

Ireland legend O'Driscoll can understand why Schmidt opted to move on and feels it would be fitting if he ended his reign by guiding Ireland to a first World Cup triumph.

The former Ireland captain, a HSBC ambassador, told Omnisport: "Five years is quite a long time in any coach's cycle. I think if for no other reason from his own point of view, to freshen up a bit.

"He's been coaching non-stop for a long time, from Clermont through to Leinster through to Ireland. I think coaches sometimes need a bit of downtime, re-evaluate their philosophies, the way they go about coaching teams and the way they think about the game.

"He's done wonders for Ireland, we've beaten every team in the world here in the last two years, we've won grand slams, we've won tours away from Ireland. He's left the team in great shape, hopefully we can leave on a high with maybe a World Cup win."

O'Driscoll welcomed the appointment of defence coach Farrell as Schmidt's successor.

"I think that continuity is really important. Andy's come in and done a great job the last three or four years and the lads really like him." the ex-British and Irish Lions skipper said.

"It's the next progression for Andy as well as a coach to step up to head coach and bring in a new team around him, have that continuity. It's very difficult if you finish one cycle and you lose some key players and you lose a coach it tends to take a few years to build that again.

"Keeping some of the same faces in there is important to maintain the lofty standards and ambitions that this Irish team has."

 

- Brian O'Driscoll was talking on behalf of The Open patron HSBC. Ahead of The Open, Brian launched HSBC’s latest social challenge, the #OneHandedChip alongside Rory O’Connor, a young golfer from Northern Ireland who suffers from cerebral palsy. For more information, please visit: https://twitter.com/HSBC_Sport/status/1147102991553585153

Minus two of their superstars for different reasons and with a defiant coach facing an uncertain future, it is tough to know quite what to expect from Australia in the Rugby Championship.

What is clear, however, is that the Wallabies will be pleased to have seen the back of 2018, when Michael Cheika’s side won just four of their 13 Tests.

A dismal year began with a series defeat on home soil to Ireland, included a first loss to Argentina in their own backyard since 1983 and climaxed with a 37-18 thumping at Twickenham against Eddie Jones' England.

As if results were not bad enough, off-field issues have left them without key components.

Israel Folau, one of the team’s leading names and a certainty for the Rugby World Cup, had his contract terminated by Rugby Australia following anti-homosexual posts on social media. A hearing in May found him guilty of a high-level breach of the governing body's code of conduct, just three months after he had signed a lucrative long-term deal to remain in rugby union.

"The World Cup is a big target of mine this year and I believe this Wallabies group can go a long way if we keep on improving,” Folau said at the time his contract news was made official. Now, the rugby league convert is in a dispute with his former employers for unfair dismissal.

While Folau is set for a court battle, David Pocock faces a fight of a different kind after cutting short his Super Rugby career in the hope of recovering from a calf injury in time to feature at the World Cup.

Australia’s hopes of glory in Japan looked bleak at the start of 2019; with their try-scoring full-back no longer an option and their talismanic flanker stuck on the sidelines, they must quickly regroup and work out a way to prosper in a shortened Championship campaign that begins in South Africa on Saturday.

Cheika has increased the pressure on his own shoulders by reiterating in the build-up to the game that he will walk away if they are not crowned world champions in Yokohama on November 2.

"I know most people would think that's a pipe dream but we don't,” he told the media ahead of the clash with a Springboks squad seemingly keeping their powder dry ahead of facing New Zealand in round two, judging by their team selection for the opener.

"We came second last time and if we come first next time I will have earned the right to stay on as the coach and if I don't then someone else earns the opportunity. I think that's fair."

Fair? It feels more like a giant leap of faith for a man who appears ready to jump before he is pushed. They are words of either a man who retains faith despite results, or who knows a line in the sand needs to be drawn.

Still, recent history offers hope for Australia.

They won the last shortened Championship in 2015, opening up against South Africa before securing the title by beating New Zealand at home (the same run of games they have this year, too). Nic White was the hero in the decider, contributing 10 points in the closing minutes to complete a remarkable rally from the hosts in Sydney.

Scrum-half White played in just one more Test but is back from a successful stint in England, as is also the case with James O'Connor, who last represented his country in 2013. James Slipper, meanwhile, is another familiar face to earn a recall, while Christian Lealiifano has overcome leukaemia to return to the international fold. Cheika will hope they can fill the gaps - other, less optimistic types may suggest the selections are just adding old deckchairs to the Titanic.

Slipper was the only one of the quartet who was involved in the last Rugby World Cup final, the replacement prop unable to stop the All Blacks prevailing. While their trans-Tasman rivals are expected to reach the same stage again in Japan, a repeat appears a long shot for this current version of Australia.

For Cheika, it is win or bust. After a torrid 2018, this year will either end in glory with the Webb Ellis Cup, or be the start of a huge rebuild under a new head coach.

The Rugby Championship begins this weekend, with the four nations keen to find form ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan.

New Zealand have won the tournament in each of the past three years and the All Blacks are favourites to once again finish above Australia, Argentina and South Africa.

We run the rule over the quartet ahead of the start of the Rugby Championship, where teams will only face each other once in a World Cup year.

NEW ZEALAND

The All Blacks are chasing more than just a fourth successive title and third consecutive World Cup in the coming months, with a slice of history also on the line. No team has ever won the Rugby Championship - or the Tri-Nations, as it was previously known - and also lifted that year's World Cup.

New Zealand were beaten by South Africa in Wellington during last year's Rugby Championship - the first time in nine years the Springboks had won an away game against the All Blacks - while a 16-9 defeat to Ireland in November will have given the rest of the rugby world further encouragement.

Sonny Bill Williams, who will not feature against Argentina on Saturday, has had an injury-hit Super Rugby season and Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock will be rested for the Pumas clash. However, this is a star-studded team regardless - one that contains 2016 and 2017 World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett - and they remain the gold standard.

SOUTH AFRICA

The Springboks were runners-up last year and might have finished top of the pile had they not thrown away a 30-13 lead against New Zealand in Pretoria after beating them in their own backyard. They ended the year with seven wins from 14 games so consistency will be the key.

A home Test series success over England was a sign South Africa could be a team to fear under Rassie Erasmus, whose decision to relax the rules on selecting European-based players has paid dividends.

Fly-half Handre Pollard was brilliant during the Super Rugby season, finishing as the league's leading point scorer, though he will be rested against the Wallabies in the opener and Aphiwe Dyantyi is sidelined by a hamstring problem.

AUSTRALIA

The Wallabies endured a horrendous 2018, losing nine of their 13 Tests. They suffered three heavy defeats to the All Blacks and were beaten by both Argentina and South Africa.

Australia slipped to their lowest-ever ranking of seventh following their first loss to the Pumas on home soil since 1983 and then lost two of their three November internationals, against Wales and England. They have not played a game in 2019 but former star full-back Israel Folau has already been making headlines, having been sacked by Rugby Australia following a controversial social-media post in which he wrote "hell awaits…drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters".

Coach Michael Cheika, who has left Quade Cooper out of his squad, made clear he will walk away if Australia do not lift the World Cup in Japan, so this competition should give an indication to his long-term future. Cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano could make his first appearance in three years at this tournament, though he will miss the South Africa clash with a shoulder problem.

ARGENTINA

The Pumas' 2018 did not start well - two home defeats to Wales preceding a 44-15 thrashing at the hands of Scotland in Resistencia - and coach Daniel Hourcade vacated his post, replaced by Mario Ledesma.

Having never won more than once in a single Rugby Championship campaign before, Argentina claimed two victories in 2018 by overcoming South Africa 32-19 in Mendoza and then beating the Wallabies on Australian soil, but they were winless in November Tests against Ireland, France and Scotland.

The Jaguares, who provide the bulk of this Argentina squad, reached their first ever Super Rugby final this year, only to be beaten by the Crusaders, but translating that club success on the international stage is an altogether different challenge.

Mario Ledesma hopes Argentina can use the nation's excitement to their advantage in their Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand.

Argentina will host the All Blacks in Buenos Aires on Saturday, in the first of three games of a tournament shortened due to the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

The clash comes on the back of the Jaguares' stunning run to the Super Rugby final, where they fell to the Crusaders.

Argentina's starting line-up for their Rugby Championship opener includes 13 Jaguares and Ledesma hopes his team can deliver.

"We have to play with the enthusiasm of the people," he told a news conference.

"That people are excited is great and we have to take the positive side, but we have to be on and [focus on] how we improve from here to Saturday."

The All Blacks are unbeaten in 32 previous meetings with Argentina, winning 31 and drawing one.

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy, Juan Figallo, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio.
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lezana, Felipe Ezcurra, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Joaquin Tuculet.

Just two months before the Rugby World Cup starts in Japan, this year's Rugby Championship will give opportunities for players desperate to board the plane to Japan.

While Beauden Barrett, Michael Hooper, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Nicolas Sanchez are nailed on to feature on the biggest stage for their respective nations, fitness permitting of course, there are some who are playing for a place in the squad.

New Zealand prepare to start the defence of their title against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, while South Africa and Australia do battle at Ellis Park on the same day.

Here we have picked out those who will be determined to grasp their opportunities in a shortened tournament in 2019.

 

SEVU REECE, NEW ZEALAND

Reece was one of four uncapped players named in the All Blacks squad for the opening two rounds.

The 22-year-old wing was the leading try scorer in Super Rugby, lighting up the competition as the Crusaders retained their title.

Fiji-born flyer Reece has the pace, power and skill to deliver on the international stage and an impressive Rugby Championship can book him a ticket to the World Cup.

Reece was supposed to join Connacht and looked set to play for Fiji, but after being granted a discharge without conviction over a domestic assault last year, he has experienced a rapid rise.

 

HARRY JOHNSON-HOLMES, AUSTRALIA

Johnson-Holmes was flown over to Johannesburg to link up with an injury-hit Australia squad for their encounter with the Springboks.

The 22-year-old Waratahs prop is poised to come off the bench for what is sure to be a fierce battle this weekend.

With Tom Robertson (ankle) and Scott Sio (adductor) missing out, Johnson-Holmes has been summoned from the fringes.

James Slipper got the nod to start in what will be his first international appearance since 2016 and he will be eager to make up for lost time, but Johnson-Holmes is vying for a World Cup call.

 

HERSCHEL JANTJIES, SOUTH AFRICA

Herschel Jantjies and Rynhardt Elstadt will make their South Africa bows against Michael Cheika's men.

Elton Jantjies and namesake Herschel will form a half-back pairing for the first time on the Test stage.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says scrum-half Herschel has the potential for greatness and he will get the opportunity to live up to the hype.

While Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach are ahead of the 23-year-old in the pecking order, but there is still time to show he merits a spot after an excellent Super Rugby season for the Stormers.

 

LUCAS MENSA, ARGENTINA 

Livewire Lucas Mensa is a potential bolter for the Pumas' World Cup party.

The centre was called up to Argentina's first Rugby Championship squad by Mario Ledesma, who will be aiming to build on an outstanding, historic Super Rugby campaign by the Jaguares.

Mensa is a bundle of energy and is capable of hitting the ground running at international level.

Yet to make his debut, the 23-year-old has impressed Ledesma while playing for Argentina XV in the Americas Rugby Championship.

Twin brothers Daniel and Jean-Luc du Preez will join Sale Sharks on a permanent basis, the Premiership club have announced.

The South Africa internationals will be reunited with older brother Robert at the AJ Bell Stadium, after Super Rugby side the Sharks agreed to release them from their contracts.

The duo had initially agreed short-term deals with Sale but have now committed their futures until 2022.

"The twins joining the club on a permanent basis really completes the jigsaw in our pack so we can properly compete and challenge for silverware over the next few seasons," said Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond.

"We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the Sharks and I look forward to welcoming the boys to Carrington in August."

Daniel du Preez will be featuring for Sale for the first time, while Jean-Luc and Robert each enjoyed loan spells in 2018-19.

"I've heard some really good things about the club from Rob and Jean-Luc and can't wait to link up with Sale in the winter and play some rugby in the Premiership with my brothers," Daniel du Preez said.

Sevu Reece will make his New Zealand debut in the Rugby Championship clash against Argentina, while four further uncapped players have been named among the replacements by Steve Hansen.

Reece was a controversial selection in the All Blacks' squad after he received a discharge without conviction for domestic assault last year.

Irish province Connacht pulled out of a move for Reece in the wake of his court appearance, but the wing was then signed by the Crusaders as injury cover and went on to excel as Super Rugby's top try-scorer in 2019.

Reece is now set to start on the right wing in Buenos Aires on Saturday, with Jordie Barrett on the opposite flank.

Head coach Hansen was quoted by stuff.co.nz as saying: "As the season has gone on, he [Reece] has just got better and better as a player. And as a person. We got interested enough to say, 'Hey, we need to keep looking at this guy'.

"And then it got past that point and we said, 'Look, we are going to need to pick him'.

"Now we want to find out if he can take that next step. This game is the logical game to play him in."

Sam Cane had already been confirmed as New Zealand's stand-in skipper and Ardie Savea will start at number eight in the absence of Kieran Read, one of several Crusaders players rested for the Argentina fixture.

Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Braydon Ennor could join Reece in earning their first caps after being named on the bench.

New Zealand team to face Argentina: Ben Smith, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Ofa Tuungafasi, Dane Coles, Angus Ta'avao, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Vaea Fifita, Sam Cane (captain), Ardie Savea.

Replacements: Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Nepo Laulala, Jackson Hemopo, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Josh Ioane, Braydon Ennor.

Nic White and James Slipper will make their long-awaited returns for Australia in their Rugby Championship opener against South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday, but there is no place for James O'Connor.

Exeter Chiefs scrum-half White became eligible for his country once again earlier in 2019 after agreeing a new deal with Rugby Australia and is now set to make his first Wallabies appearance since August 2015.

Former captain Slipper, who last played an international in 2016, will also make his comeback, the prop having returned to form with the Brumbies after suffering from depression and testing positive for cocaine last year.

Isi Naisarani is set to make his Wallabies debut at number eight and front-rower Harry Johnson-Holmes - a late call-up to the squad amid injury issues - could come off the bench to earn a first cap.

However, versatile back O'Connor, who rejoined the Reds earlier this week, will have to wait for his first international appearance since 2013, with Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi preferred in the centres.

Tom Banks starts at full-back ahead of Kurtley Beale, while hooker Jordan Uelese is set to make his third Test appearance off the bench, almost two years after his second.

"This is an opportunity for our team. We really want to begin building momentum to take us towards our goals in 2019," said Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika.

"The players are impatient to play at Ellis Park where our Wallabies haven't had an opportunity to play for quite a while."

South Africa will be led by Eben Etzebeth against Australia in their Rugby Championship opener, with two Test debutants in the Springboks' XV.

Rassie Erasmus' men are without captain Siya Kolisi for Saturday's clash in Johannesburg as he recovers from a knee injury, meaning Etzebeth instead skippers the side.

Meanwhile, Rynhardt Elstadt and Herschel Jantjies come into the starting line-up for their bows.

Elstadt joins Pieter-Steph du Toit and Francois Louw in the back row, with Jantjies alongside namesake Elton in a halfback combination.

Lizo Gqoboka, also uncapped and named among the replacements, is in line to make his first appearance for South Africa from the bench.

Erasmus said: "We are excited for the forthcoming year and I want to congratulate Rynhardt, Herschel and Lizo on their first inclusion in a Springbok match-day squad, while the leadership role is not something new for Eben.

"The build-up has been good and there is definitely a very good vibe for match.

"Australia have prepared very well for this match and they have spent two weeks at altitude to acclimatise to the Highveld, so we are in for a great contest."

Aphiwe Dyantyi's absence due to a hamstring injury had already been confirmed.

 

South Africa XV to face Australia: Warrick Gelant, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Herschel Jantjies; Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw.

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka, Vincent Koch, Marvin Orie, Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn, Dillyn Leyds.

Christian Lealiifano and Scott Sio will miss Australia's Rugby Championship clash against South Africa on Saturday due to injury.

Lealiifano was in contention to make his first Wallabies appearance in over three years following a battle with leukaemia.

However, a shoulder problem means he will not face the Springboks in Johannesburg this weekend as he and prop Sio (adductor) will return home for rehabilitation with a view to rejoining the squad for the meeting with Argentina in Brisbane on July 27.

Jack Maddocks and Rob Valetini have been released by head coach Michael Cheika for club duties, while Tom Robertson (ankle) needs a scan on an ankle injury that is expected to see him absent for both the Springboks and Pumas games.

Marika Koroibete is due to return home from South Africa following the birth of his second child, while uncapped prop Harry Johnson-Holmes will link up with the squad.

Cheika will name his XV on Thursday, ahead of the opening game of what will be a truncated Championship due to the Rugby World Cup beginning in Japan in September.

James O'Connor insisted on including behavioural clauses in his Rugby Australia contract in a bid to prove his new-found maturity.

The 29-year-old has rejoined the Reds in Super Rugby, boosting his hopes of an Australia recall for the Rugby World Cup, and linked up with the Wallabies in South Africa for their Rugby Championship opener.

O'Connor has been a controversial figure in the past and was released by the Reds in 2015 due to "personal issues".

He was later briefly suspended by Toulon for a drug offence, before signing for Sale Sharks.

However, O'Connor has walked away from a lucrative Premiership deal to return to Queensland and, according to Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson, he has agreed to a contract that will ensure good behaviour.

O'Connor last played for the Wallabies in September 2013.

"It's a clean skin from him to say 'I just want to talk about rugby, if I play up you've got the right [to release me] - it's not going to be an arduous process'," Johnson said.

"We're not even talking about [the clauses]. He wanted them in. He wanted complete transparency to protect everyone because he was sincere of his wishes.

"So it's really good to have a lad forcing it to say, 'Just believe me 'cause this is what I'm about' and I go back to [the fact] that he's a young bloke coming back who just wants to talk about rugby and be seen as a rugby player and we're there to support him.

"It's a good statement for players accepting their responsibility for their career so he's determined this and we've supported him on it."

Johnson added of discussions with O'Connor: "There were a lot of conversations and I needed to understand why he wanted to do this. It certainly wasn't the money.

"We saw the best of him as a young player. We're hoping the sport allows us to really showcase what we've missed the last five or six years.

"I genuinely believe in his sincerity about what he's trying to achieve. I think it's good for our sport if he comes back and plays well and is the man he really aspires to be."

The Wallabies team to face South Africa is set to be announced on Wednesday and O'Connor could yet feature.

"He'll certainly come into discussions," Johnson said. "Whether this is the right time for him, we'll wait and see."

James O'Connor has rejoined the Reds, signing a two-year contract with Queensland and Australian Rugby that makes him eligible for his country's World Cup campaign.

Versatile back O'Connor, 29, was released from his contract with English club Sale Sharks earlier this month, in order to pursue his ambitions of representing the Wallabies at the World Cup in Japan later this year.

He has now returned to Queensland, where he spent a solitary season in 2015, eager to demonstrate how he has matured after off-field troubles marred his previous time in Australia, which included stints with the Western Force and the Rebels.

"I'm a Queenslander. I was born there. I started playing rugby there. It's where the dream began. I think a big part as well is that I owe Queensland the best version of myself," said O'Connor, who has 44 Test caps.

"I came back last time and I wasn't in the best place mentally, but also physically I was quite broken, so I couldn't produce and perform the rugby I wanted to for the team.

"I'm finally ready to return and make amends. I want to do right by the team and the fans, and I intend to deliver the very best of my energy. If I can help the team get back to the top of the sport and if we can bring success back to Queensland, that would be a dream for me."

O'Connor could now make an immediate return to Australia's squad for the Rugby Championship.

Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) CEO David Hanham said: "In our discussions with James, he's been very open with us around the opportunity he had in northern England to reassess areas of his life and to re-evaluate his approach to professional rugby.

"The feedback from Sale is that he's been a strong contributor both on and off the field and we believe that he's a different person to the player that left Ballymore in 2015."

Rugby Australia's director of rugby, Scott Johnson, added: "James has immense talent. He started his career in Queensland and this is a chance for him to show his full potential for his home state. 

"Now is the time for James' rugby to do the talking. He's come home for the right reasons to play rugby and to help develop our rugby programs. He's matured and understands the leadership roles both on and off the field. He's been honest and transparent throughout this whole process.

"We want to back the man to be the player we know he can be."

Aphiwe Dyantyi will miss South Africa's Rugby Championship opener against Australia this weekend with a hamstring injury.

The Springboks begin their campaign at home to the Wallabies on Saturday but will be without World Rugby's 2018 breakthrough player of the year.

Lions wing Dyantyi has returned to his club to rehabilitate the issue which was suffered in training on Friday.

Dyantyi was set to see a specialist on Monday in the hope of working on a return date.

South Africa will not call up a replacement, with coach Rassie Erasmus set to name his XV on Wednesday.

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