Australia can move within one point of South Africa in the Rugby Championship standings if they beat the Springboks for the second time in less than a week at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Quade Cooper made his first Wallabies appearance since June 2017 and played an instrumental role as the Wallabies edged a 28-26 victory on the Gold Coast this past Sunday.
The 33-year-old kicked the winning penalty with the final touch of the game at Cbus Super Stadium, earning Cooper another go as starter for their rematch in Brisbane.
It represents a return to his roots for Cooper, who made his professional debut at Suncorp Stadium in 2007 playing for the Queensland Reds, whom he’s represented in 11 Super Rugby campaigns.
And head coach Dave Rennie has named an experienced half-back pairing after promoting fit-again Nic White back to the first XV despite Tate McDermott’s impressive form in the No. 9 jersey.
Loosehead prop James Slipper has also been recalled to the starting XV and will earn his 108th cap as part of a new-look front row.
Taniela Tupou will take over at tighthead after Allan Alaalatoa left camp to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
Despite his remarkable cap count, veteran prop Slipper isn’t the most experienced in Rennie’s squad, an honour that instead belongs to openside flanker Michael Hooper.
Not only will Hooper makes his 113th appearance in the green and gold on Saturday, but he’ll also break George Gregan’s 59-cap record as captain as he makes his 60th outing in the armband.
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“It’s an incredible milestone for Hoops on Saturday evening in Brisbane and it’s a testament to him as a person and a player," Rennie told reporters on Thursday.
“I’ve been so impressed with his leadership both on and off the field and his drive to be better every day.
“We were really proud of the effort from our men last Sunday and we’re well aware of the ferocity that a wounded Springboks outfit will bring to Suncorp Stadium.”
Rennie has persisted with Hooper as captain despite some criticism of the player in the leadership role following Australia’s poor form earlier this year.
South Africa have also made minimal changes to their XV as they hunt revenge for their last-gasp defeat on Sunday, and Australia will be glad winger Cheslin Kolbe has missed out once more.
Lock Lood de Jager is a significant loss for the Springboks due to concussion, with Marvin Orie taking his spot in the row alongside Eben Etzebeth.
Fly-half Handre Pollard has kept his place and will hope to improve after several bad misses from the tee last time out, just one of which might have kept the result in their favour.
The Wallabies would be wise not to get ahead of themselves considering the fine margins that separated the pair at Cbus Super Stadium.
A first victory of this year’s Rugby Championship lifted Rennie’s men off the base of the standings, and a bonus-point win on Saturday would move them just a point behind second-place South Africa.
It’s been a decade since Australia last defeated the reigning world champions twice in the same calendar year, not to mention five years since they just clinched back-to-back wins in this fixture.
White’s contribution off the bench played a pivotal role in turning the tide late on last weekend, but he and playmaking partner Cooper will hope to turn the screw from the start on Saturday.
(Backs) Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Nic White; (Forwards) Rob Valentini, Michael Hooper (c), Lachlan Swinton, Matt Philip, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Folau Fainga’a, Jamies Slipper
Reps: Feleti Kaitu’u, Angus Bell, Tom Robertson, Darcy Swain, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia
South Africa team
(Backs) Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; (Forwards) Duane Vermeulen, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Marvin Orie, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane
Reps: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Jasper Wiese, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse
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