Samo and Vickerman in Wallaby comebacks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Samo and Vickerman in Wallaby comebacks

Jim Morton 23/08/2011 05:45:13 PM Comments (0)

Did you hear the one about the towering Fijian and 204cm former South African who thought their rugby days were over but were picked to play for Australia against the All Blacks?

It's not a tall story.

Radike Samo and Dan Vickerman will both cap two of the most remarkable of comebacks when they line up in Saturday night's Tri Nations decider at Suncorp Stadium.

The 2004 Brumbies teammates will start together in a massive Australian forward pack after each bravely overcame the odds in the past 18 months.

At the start of last year, Samo, now 35, was being rejected by each Super Rugby franchise because he was deemed too old and too slow after returning from stints in France and Japan.

Only Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie gave him a chance and he's grabbed it by playing the best rugby of his long career in the Reds' title charge.

He gets his chance at No.8 while Vickerman will start in the second-row alongside new captain James Horwill against New Zealand.

The South African-born lock, 32, spent the previous three seasons studying economics in the UK and had virtually given up on a dream comeback earlier this year when he struggled to overcome a stress fracture in his lower leg.

"A few months back, he was distraught," said coach Robbie Deans.

"It looked like it was going to be terminal for him."

Vickerman, described as uncompromising and a full-on character by Horwill and Deans, was training too hard to get back into shape at the time but has almost magically come good after being ordered to ease off.

"I had a few dark days," the 57-Test veteran admitted.

"I was battling a bit just trying to get it right but I kept plugging through it.

"I had a few meltdowns here and there. I got through that and now the leg is good."

Both have major opportunities to cement their places in Australia's starting pack for the World Cup kick-off against Italy on September 11.

The 197cm-tall Samo's selection has erasedthe residual pain of being passed over by Fiji for the 2003 tournament, which led to him switching allegiances to the Wallabies.

It has also put egg on the faces of interstate provincial officials who knocked back his services last year.

"To look back and think about it, it's kind of really funny because I'd been talking to the rest of the states and told them I wanted to have another crack at Super Rugby and what I got back was that I'm a bit too old, I'm not quick enough to play at this level," Samo said.

"There's only one person that believed in me - Ewen."

Deans said the long-striding Samo's specialist scrum-base abilities had given him the nod ahead of Scott Higginbotham after an impressive cameo off the bench in Durban.

"He has that X-factor element which is unusual for a forward," the coach said.

"It's a remarkable story, and he's a great character in the mix."

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