Hooper: 'We've got a lot more in us'
REACTION: Michael Hooper believes the Wallabies still have another gear to go following their win over Springboks on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
The Wallabies recorded a hard-fought 28-26 win over the Springboks on Sunday.
The win comes after three comprehensive losses to New Zealand and a tight 2-1 series win over a France side missing a host of their best players.
“The match came down to the wire, and that is the case with most of the games against South Africa, especially in the way they play, ” Hooper told reporters after the win.
“But we were smart, we got into their zone and took the points and build a score.
“I think we’ve got a lot more in us. In the way that we could move the ball around and receive their kicks.
“So what we do know is that next week [in a Brisbane rematch] we have to level up again.
“But we’ll savour this one for the moment because there’s plenty of great stories there.”
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The Cooper factor
The Springboks outscored the Wallabies three tries to one, however, it was Quade Cooper’s flawless performance from the kicking tee that proved to be the difference.
Cooper slot a perfect eight off the tee, including the match-winner after the siren from 40 metres out and 12 metres in from touch.
“We didn’t think it was a risk,” Rennie said of picking Cooper, who hadn’t played a professional game in five months.
“He was close to starting the week before and based on form [in training] it was hard to leave him out.
“He was confident and his experience made a difference,”
Cooper is now in the box seat to keep Noah Lolesio on the pine and also delay what appeared the inevitable Rugby Championship return of James O’Connor [groin], who at 31 could become the junior playmaker of the side.
When asked if Cooper’s chances of making the World Cup team in 2023, Rennie said “of course” a 35-year-old Cooper could lead the Wallabies into the next World Cup.
That scenario would have seemed bizarre even after the 33-year-old was drafted into the squad during his Japanese off-season, primarily as a mentor to budding Lolesio, earlier this year.
“He’d be a young fella [at the 2023 World Cup] if he was in the Springbok team,” Rennie said.
“Of course he could [be Wallabies No.10 at the World Cup], but we’re not thinking too far ahead at this stage.
“He was excited to get an opportunity and delivered big time and I know he’s keen and available for the rest of the year and we will make a call beyond that,”
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Less was more for Cooper in his 71st Test, resisting the urge to throw long cut-out passes and instead servicing his outside men with sharp, clean ball or kicking for territory.
His pass to Samu Kerevi set up Andrew Kellaway for Australia’s only try while the Springboks, fresh off a 2-1 series win over the British & Irish Lions and two straight wins over Argentina, scored three rolling maul tries.
But the Wallabies showed they have the low gears necessary to beat the visitors, who were at full strength aside from injured wing Cheslin Kolbe, at their own game.
Cooper was cast aside by former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and incoming Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn before moving to the Melbourne Rebels and then to Japan, where he remains contracted to second-tier outfit Kintetsu Liners.
Still waiting to hear if he’s been granted Australian citizenship after four failed attempts – “fingers crossed” he said post-game – New Zealand-born Cooper admitted he had made an effort to become a better man after spending his youth as simply “Quade Cooper, the Wallaby”.
An ironic by-product of that has been his Wallabies second-coming.
And now, with fellow returning Japan-based stars Kerevi and Sean McMahon, who will join camp next week, he has given captain Michael Hooper another wise head to turn to.
“He was calm, made good decisions, gave us a bit of direction, it was pleasing to have him here and it’s a great story for him,” Hooper said.