Raised eyebrows as coach talks up Cooper
RUGBY news might be relegated to a small column on the inside pages of national newspaper The Australian, but the mind games in Brisbane have already begun before Saturday's Rugby Championship clash between the Wallabies and the Springboks.
The Boks had their first training session yesterday without their crop of French-based players, who arrived at the team's hotel throughout the course of the day. But everyone has a clean bill of health for Saturday's showdown at the Suncorp Stadium.
Coach Heyneke Meyer immediately gave Wallaby counterpart Ewen McKenzie some food for thought when he declared there would be "rotational" changes to the Springbok line-up.
"There will be a few changes, mostly due to rotation, and also we want to have the freshest team on the field as possible," Meyer said. "We've travelled a lot and we're going to play three away matches on the trot. We have to travel for all three so it is important to have fresh guys."
He then took time to talk up the virtues of Aussie flyhalf Quade Cooper, who is yet to start a Test this season, and saidthe Boks were not looking forward to facing him.
Meyer gushed so much that it sounded like the Boks' real ploy is to talk Cooper into the Wallaby team, perhaps fearing his inconsistency less than incumbent Matt Toomua's steady approach.
"I probably would play him [Cooper] if I were the coach. He's a great player and he's the type of player I'd like to have in my team.
"But [I'm] not saying there is place for him in my team," Meyer added quickly.
"I just believe when he and Will Genia play well, the Wallabies play well. Cooper is a confidence player and he wants someone to believe in him. He and Ewen go back some time and it is just a matter of time until he comes back, and hopefully not against the Boks."
Meyer said the Boks wouldn't change their game plan to accommodate one selection, and he believed the Aussies would stick to the same approach they have used for much of the season.
"We need to slow the ball down and put pressure on their defence and I truly believe he [Cooper] is a gamebreaker, especially if his confidence is up. He is a very good player," said the Bok coach.
"We've been playing the same game plan for two years now and suddenly when you score a lot of tries people say you've changed, but it's just a matter of certain players in certain positions and sometimes it works.
"I don't think they will change their whole game plan, it is just with Quade there they will play around him. He is very dangerous at the middle rucks where he attacks and plays off the players around him.
"They usually drop him into fullback in defence and he is a good player back there on defence who can create things from the back."