Quade Cooper. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Quade Cooper earned a shock recall to the Wallabies on Friday, with the mercurial playmaker named in the starting side to face world champions South Africa after four years in the wilderness.
The seasoned 33-year-old played the last of his 70 Tests against Italy in mid-2017 and his international career appeared over.
But Australia coach Dave Rennie threw him a lifeline ahead of the first Bledisloe Cup Test in New Zealand last month, when he called him up to help put his relatively young squad through their paces.
Japan-based Cooper wasn’t selected for the three demoralising defeats to the All Blacks but with an experienced Springboks looming in the Rugby Championship round three on the Gold Coast on Sunday, Rennie has turned to the veteran flyhalf.
He gets his chance with James O’Connor still not fully match fit and young No.10 Noah Lolesio struggling with his kicking game and dropped.
“We’re thrilled for Quade that he’s earned another opportunity to pull on the gold jersey for his country,” said Rennie, adding that he had been “outstanding” in training.
“He’s had a really positive impact since joining the group, put pressure on us as selectors and he’s excited to get out there and perform on Sunday night.”
Skipper Michael Hooper, meanwhile, will equal George Gregan’s record for most Tests as captain when he leads the side out for the 59th time at Cbus Super Stadium.
Playing in his 112th Test, Hooper will also overtake George Smith as the fifth most capped Wallaby of all time.
“He’s been in phenomenal form and to equal George Gregan’s record as the most Tests as captain of Australia is a testament to his leadership and resilience,” said Rennie.
Centre Samu Kerevi, who was called up for his first match since the 2019 World Cup in the 38-21 loss to New Zealand in Perth last weekend, keeps his place, as does fullback Tom Banks despite poor recent form.
Loosehead Prop Angus Bell will start for the first time, joining hooker Folau Fainga’a and tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa in the front row.
Izack Rodda earns a starting berth in the second row alongside Matt Philip while the back row of Lachlan Swinton, Rob Valetini and Hooper is unchanged.
Hooker Feleti Kaitu’u is one of two potential debutants named on the bench, along with flanker Rob Leota as Australia seek to get their first win of the tournament.
Kick-off is at 12:05 (SA time) on Sunday.
15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Angus Bell
Substitutes: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse