Australia vs South Africa: Will Quade Cooper unlock the Springboks' defence?
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Last Updated: 10/09/21 4:11pm
Australia are banking on experienced fly-half Quade Cooper against South Africa as the Rugby Championship arrives in Queensland this weekend.
Australia coach Dave Rennie sprung a major surprise on Friday by naming Quade Cooper at fly-half for their match against South Africa, bringing the mercurial playmaking talent back to the Test arena for the first time in four years.
Cooper's selection would indicate that the Wallabies will look to move the ball around against a powerful and settled Springboks side, who completed a series triumph over the British and Irish Lions last month.
"We're picking the guy who we think can do the best job for us, based on the cattle we've got," Rennie told reporters.
"We don't want to be conservative but we don't to be reckless either."
Cooper has a 9-5 record against the Springboks in 14 previous Tests, while Australia have not lost to the South Africans on home soil since 2013.
The Springboks are a different team from even just a few years ago, however, and although missing injured winger Cheslin Kolbe, coach Jacques Nienaber was able to recall back row behemoth Duane Vermeulen into an already impressive line-up.
Also returning to the fray is Faf de Klerk who missed the team's last three Tests through injury but is back in the line-up for this weekend.
Fly-half Handre Pollard tends to be the leader of the backline, but it is De Klerk who sets the tempo at which the team plays.
"What I'd like to bring to the field is the game management side of things, so deciding when to have a go and when to take them on in the air, as well as when to speed up the game. So that is the control I need to bring," De Klerk told reporters.
"I also want to bring my basics such as feeding (the ball) and passing, giving the team great front-foot ball, and ensuring that we go forward. If I can score a try, that's always nice."
He is perhaps not as dynamic with ball in hand as the other scrumhalves in the squad, Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach and Jaden Hendrikse, but his rugby intelligence and ability to master the Boks' forward-based game-plan sets him apart.
He knows too of the threat posed by his opposite number on Sunday.
"(Tate) McDermott is an exciting young player, who is really threatening around the rucks and is a good player to watch," De Klerk said.
"That's the kind of guy Australia wants now, someone who poses a threat. Nic White backing him up also presents a massive challenge for us on defence."
De Klerk believes the Boks will be in for a battle against a Wallabies side that has lost three Tests in a row to New Zealand.
"Having watched their games and how close they have come to winning some of them, I think if a few things had gone their way and a few passes stuck there could have been different results," he said.
"From my personal experience of playing in Australia, it is incredibly tough and it's always a massive physical challenge.
"Adding to that, the way they play these days where they almost try to run you off your feet is going to test us defensively. So it will be a tough game."
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Tate McDermott, 1 Angus Bell, 2 Folau Fainga'a, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 4 Izack Rodda, 5 Matt Philip, 6 Lachie Swinton, 7 Michael Hooper, 8 Rob Valetini
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu'u, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 1 Steven Kitshoff, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Franco Mostert, 8 Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.