Stick opens up on Cooper factor
SPOTLIGHT: Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi have got South Africa thinking as the unlikely Wallabies pair attempt to arrest Australia’s slide in Sunday’s Rugby Championship clash on the Gold Coast.
Cooper is the bold selection after four years in the Test wilderness, the playmaker’s return creating some buzz around a side soundly beaten in their three previous Tests against New Zealand.
With Kerevi, himself back in the fray after a two-year absence, in the centres the Springboks know Dave Rennie’s side will look to win the game with ball in hand.
“If you give them [Cooper and Kerevi] time and pace they will punish you,” said Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick. “So, we can’t afford not to pitch up tomorrow, it’s going to be a tough day for us.
“With ball in hand, we know the challenge that’s coming.
“They are going to try and keep the ball as much as possible and we have worked very hard on our conditioning to face the challenge. Not only Cooper, they have world-class players.”
On Cooper, Stick added: “We are going to have to respect him and make sure that we don’t give him a lot of time and space to make decisions.”
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‘Hunt down the breakdowns’
Both Stick and captain Siya Kolisi expected an intense breakdown battle, especially with star Wallabies’ poacher and captain Michael Hooper looming large, but they said the team had done their homework to ensure that they are as competitive as possible in that department.
“All teams want quick ball because it’s important to get on the front foot, and for us, that brings the best out for us,” said Stick. “It is not only Michael Hooper slowing down the ball for them, they have a lot of players who can do it.
“We know that if we don’t get quick ball it will be a long day, but they will also be relying on quick ball, so it will be important for us to get good service in that department.”
Kolisi, meanwhile, stressed the importance of a team effort at the breakdowns, and said: “We need to hunt down the breakdowns as a team because there are a lot of players that will put their hands in the rucks.
“We know that Hooper is good at that, but that is my job as well and we know that we have to work together because every breakdown will be a tough contest.”
Additional sources: AAP