Hooper makes history as Wallabies make three changes
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Nic White and Taniela Tupou will return to the starting side when Michael Hooper becomes Australia’s most-capped Wallabies captain in Saturday’s Rugby Championship return bout against South Africa.
White replaces Tate McDermott at scrumhalf, with Tupou finally earning his first start of the tournament after prop Allan Alaalatoa left Wallabies camp for the birth of his first child.
Veteran James Slipper also returns to the front row, with Angus Bell to warm the bench after starting in last weekend’s thrilling 28-26 win over the Springboks.
Hooper will surpass George Gregan for the most Tests as Wallabies captain when he leads the side out for the 60th time.
The 29-year-old first captained Australia as a 22-year-old in 2014, making Hooper the third youngest Wallabies leader of all time.
The world champion Springboks will be seething after Quade Cooper’s long-range penalty after the siren sunk them on Sunday.
They’ll meet again inside a week, this time at Brisbane’s Lang Park where the Wallabies have won their past eight Tests.
Nursing a shin injury, McDermott remained off after the break on Sunday and White made the most of his extra time on the park.
He kicked a 50-22 early in the second half and then forced the decisive penalty after Australia had turned over a scrum just seconds before full-time.
McDermott has played nine Tests and started in his past five, earning the respect of his rivals for his probing attack, desperate defence and improved kicking.
But 40-Test veteran White’s game management will be equally crucial against a Springboks side intent on turning the tables after Australia beat them at their own game on the Gold Coast.
“They’re big and they’ll be angry and no doubt it’s going to hurt this weekend,” former Wallabies fullback Chris Latham said of South Africa.
“I don’t think they’ll change much from their game plan, I just think their execution will be far better.”
Cooper’s exploits in his Test return make him a hard man to replace in the No.10 ,despite James O’Connor being fit and available after missing the previous seven Tests this year.
In an effort to play both, Latham lobbed up the left-field option of moving O’Connor to fullback, where he featured in his previous life for the Wallabies more than a decade ago.
But coach Dave Rennie on Thursday resisted Latham’s push, retaining Tom Banks in the No.15 jumper for his eighth start of 2021.
Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia.
Date: Saturday, September 18
Venue: Lang Park, Brisbane
Kick-off: 17.05 (09.05 SA time; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)