Sharpe, who was controversially left out of the 24-man touring party for the Eden Park loss against New Zealand last Saturday, replaced Dan Vickerman in the extended group for the trip to South Africa as part of coach Robbie Deans' rotation plan.
The 33-year-old's hopes of attending a third Rugby World Cup looked in dire straits seven days ago, but his selection ahead of youngster Rob Simmons is a strong indication he will be named in the 30-man World Cup squad next Thursday.
In the only other change to the starting XV following Saturday's 30-14 defeat to the All Blacks, in-form Reds back-rower Scott Higginbotham finally gets his chance in the starting side at number eight at the expense of Ben McCalman.
Deans says Higginbotham's maiden run-on Test is just reward for a rousing display off the bench against the All Blacks.
"Scott has made a genuine impact in each of his Test outings to date this year and we'll be looking for him to do the same from the start this week," Deans said.
While McCalman will fill a spot on the bench, Simmons drops out of the match-day 22 with a minor shoulder injury.
"Rob has been troubled for a wee while now by a shoulder niggle," said Deans, who confirmed Simmons is still a part of his World Cup plans.
"With so much rugby still to come this year, and a physically taxing afternoon in prospect, we thought it prudent to pull back on his involvement for now to allow his shoulder to rest up."
Giant Waratahs lock Sitaleki Timani has been named on the bench alongside evergreen Reds veteran Radike Samo, with Lachie Turner making way to allow Deans to carry five reserve forwards.
Brumbies prop Salesi Ma'afu also comes into the squad among the replacements after overcoming a broken arm suffered three months ago, forcing Pek Cowan out of the squad.
Despite last weekend's loss, the Wallabies will remain in contention to win the Tri Nations with a victory over the world champions.
But Deans warned his men to prepare for a torrid encounter against a Springboks side bolstered by the return of several stars.
"We saw last week that the All Blacks hit the ground running, with a group that featured a number of experienced players coming off a brief break, and the Springboks will be no different," Deans said.
"We didn't handle the opening onslaught in Auckland and that set us on the back foot for the remainder of the match.
"The South Africans won't have missed that. More of the same will be coming. It is important we adapt better and get ourselves into the contest from the start."
Australia: K Beale; J O'Connor, A Ashley-Cooper, P McCabe, D Ioane; Q Cooper, W Genia; S Kepu, S Moore, B Alexander, N Sharpe, J Horwill, R Elsom (capt), D Pocock, S Higginbotham.
Replacements: S Fainga'a, S Ma'afu, S Timani, B McCalman, R Samo, L Burgess, A Fainga'a.
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