Saturday 17 March 2018

Cooper finally handed recall for Wallabies' date with Boks

Quade Cooper played no part in the series defeat against the Lions
Quade Cooper played no part in the series defeat against the Lions

Press Association

Enigmatic out-half Quade Cooper has been handed his first Test start in 12 months, while code-hopper Israel Folau will start at full-back as part of a new-look Australia side to face South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday.

Cooper's promotion from the bench and Folau's shift from the right wing forces Brumbies young guns Matt Toomua and Jesse Mogg to the bench for the Rugby Championship clash.

Force veteran Nick Cummins replaces Folau on the right wing, while Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu replaces Ben Alexander at tighthead in the only change to the starting pack.

Reds loose forward Jake Schatz has been named on the bench and is in line for a possible Test debut, with Liam Gill omitted from the squad alongside Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani.

Coach Ewen McKenzie says Cooper is the best man to implement the Wallabies' game plan against the Springboks and added that his selection is a reward for his perseverance.

"We have very specific thoughts about how we want to play this game and feel Quade is best suited to carrying that out," McKenzie said. "He's been part of our matchday squad in both games (against New Zealand) so far.


"He is also an experienced and successful Test player, which is handy to have against a hardened Springboks outfit.

"It has been almost 12 months since he last started a Test match and I'm sure there were times where he wondered if he would wear the No 10 jersey again.

"He has worked really hard both on and off the field to now get that chance. He has carried himself extremely well all year and during the last fortnight in the role we've asked him to complete."

Meanwhile, hooker Bismarck du Plessis will return to South Africa's starting line-up for the first time in more than a year after the Springboks made three changes to their team.

Flip van der Merwe also moves up from the bench in place of Juandre Kruger in the second-row, while Leinster's Zane Kirchner will play his first Test of the year at full-back.

Coach Heyneke Meyer has made two positional changes to make way for Kirchner, moving Willie le Roux from full-back to the right wing, with Bryan Habana shifting to the left.

Promotions for Du Plessis and Van der Merwe mean Adriaan Strauss and Kruger drop to the bench, while winger Bjorn Basson drops out of the squad altogether after starting in the two wins over Argentina with which South Africa opened their campaign.

SOUTH AFRICA (v Australia, Saturday) – Z Kirchner; W le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, J de Villiers (capt), B Habana; M Steyn, R Pienaar; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis; E Etzebeth, F van der Merwe; F Louw, W Alberts, D Vermeulen. Reps: A Strauss, G Steenkamp, C Oosthuizen, J Kruger, S Kolisi, J Vermaak, P Lambie, J Serfontein.

AUSTRALIA – I Folau; N Cummins, A Ashley-Cooper, C Leali'ifano, J O'Connor; Q Cooper, W Genia; J Slipper, S Moore, S Kepu; R Simmons, J Horwill (capt); S Fardy, M Hooper, B Mowen. Reps: S Fainga'a, S Sio, B Alexander, K Douglas, J Schatz, N White, M Toomua, J Mogg.

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