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Springboks on Cooper: 'Not saying he was immature in the past...'

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Beaten Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber has paid tribute to Quade Cooper for the way he played for Australia in last Sunday’s dramatic Rugby Championship win for the Wallabies on the Gold Coast. That 33-year-old hadn’t been capped at Test level since 2017 but he returned from his four-year stint in the international wilderness to put South Africa to the sword with a match-winning effort capped by a last-gasp penalty kick. 

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With young Noah Lolesio struggling in recent matches versus the All Blacks, and particularly inaccurate off the kicking tee, Wallabies boss Dave Rennie felt last Sunday’s round three Championship clash with the Springboks was an opportune time to recall Cooper to a set-up he was last involved in when Michael Cheika was in charge. 

Cooper went on to account for 23 of Australia’s match-winning tally of 28 points and his influence was admired by rival boss Nienaber, who insisted that he was surprised by nothing which the veteran out-half did having long been an admirer of his style of play.

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Wallabies out-half Quade Cooper reflects on his magical return to the Test rugby stage

“Nothing (surprised me),” said the Springboks boss when asked about a Cooper factor he will likely face again this Saturday when the teams play their round four clash in Brisbane. “He is a quality rugby player. I always thought he was a quality rugby player. I was coaching the Stormers back in 2011 when he and Will (Genia) were running riot with Queensland. 

“I still see the same traits that I saw back then in him. It’s always nice as a defence coach to measure yourself against the quality of somebody like Quade. Just from purely what I am seeing, I am not saying he was immature in the past, not at all, I see a mature game. I thought he managed the game well and that is why Dave selected him, because of his experience. He is an experienced guy who has played over 70 Test matches.”

Nienaber, who has made two changes to the starting Springboks XV for this weekend’s rematch with the Wallabies, added that the dynamic of having an old-stager such as Cooper involved in a squad where there are youngsters such as Lolesio who are keen to learn is a win-win situation for any team. “Test match rugby is different and it’s something you grow into. You make mistakes, you get used to the pace of the game only after a couple of matches, you get used to the pressure of it.

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“Quade has played 70-odd Test matches and has been through most of it. In terms of your squad, it is always nice to have experience on one side but also to get that energy and that almost mindfulness and playfulness from the youth. It’s always nice to have a good balance in terms of that.”

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Springboks on Cooper: 'Not saying he was immature in the past...'

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