Michael Hooper's challenge to Wallabies ahead of Springboks clash
The inspirational flanker will play test number 112 in the Rugby Championship clash on the Gold Coast – only four men have played more often for Australia – while he will equal George Gregan’s record when he leads the Wallabies out for a 59th time.
Hooper has arguably been Australia’s best player in the six tests since returning from a cameo in Japan’s Top League, admitting that the year away from Super Rugby got him thinking differently about rugby.
But, two years out from a World Cup, he knows his own form and achievements won’t count for much unless the side’s trajectory starts curling upwards.
“I’ve been largely trying to pick myself up from last week; it’s been a tough three games and we’ve all had to do that in our own ways,” Hooper said on Saturday.
“We’ve got to be taking stuff from it, we’ve got to start to show improvement.
“Because if we do what we want to do out there we’re going to really test them on Sunday.”
The Springboks have picked a massive pack, openly conceding they will sweat on every Australian error after watching the Wallabies regularly turn the ball over against New Zealand.
Happy to play without the ball, it leaves the onus on the hosts to deny them the chance.
“We’ve shown how when we’re a bit sloppy with our ball we can be punished,” Hooper said.
“We need to be smart with how we use the ball, playing in the right areas of the field.”
That will largely fall to recalled playmaker Quade Cooper, a shock selection four years on from his last test and five months since his last competitive game in Japan.
Wallabies boss Dave Rennie has rejected suggestions that the selection of Quade Cooper against the Springboks was a panic move after three straight losses. #Wallabies #RSAvAUS #RugbyChampionship https://t.co/fTi1EXF7cO
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 11, 2021
Replacing axed 21-year-old Noah Lolesio, Hooper said 33-year-old Cooper’s recall had the squad buzzing.
“It’s very exciting isn’t it? He’s got such a unique story, and is such a quality player when he’s on,” the captain said.
“He’s the right selection for the game this week … everyone’s pretty pumped to see him out there.”
The Springboks and All Blacks are both 2-0 entering Sunday’s double header against Australia and Argentina respectively, meaning it’s effectively a must-win clash for Australia to have any chance of winning the Rugby Championship.
“We wouldn’t want it any other way,” Hooper said of playing a near-full strength South Africa on the back of a Bledisloe Cup.
“It’s going to really help our trajectory. We have to keep our mindset strong … question things, but be strong on what we’re trying to achieve.”
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