Michael Hooper on Saturday warned South Africa to prepare for “a real test” with the Wallabies “pumped” by the shock return of Quade Cooper, as the resilient captain prepares to mark a major milestone.
Australia face the world champions in the Rugby Championship in Gold Coast on Sunday, desperate to improve after three straight defeats by the All Blacks.
But they have a big task ahead with the experienced Springboks coming off two wins over Argentina and a 2-1 series victory over the British & Irish Lions.
South Africa also head into the game having won their last two Tests against Australia, although the two sides have not met since 2019.
Hooper admitted his young side must improve their discipline and ball handling, but insisted they were quickly learning and capable of toppling their opponents.
“You take a loss like that [against New Zealand], again, and you’ve got to be taking stuff from it,” said the 29-year-old, who will equal George Gregan’s record for most Tests as captain when he leads the side out for the 59th time.
“You can’t just be going on the same trend, we’ve got to start to show improvements.
“And I think we’re really going to test the South Africans and we’ve got to really trust our gameplan and trust the guys next to us to be able to deliver on that and for longer periods of time.”
The team has been boosted by a stunning recall of playmaker Cooper, having played the last of his 70 Tests against Italy in 2017.
His international career appeared over but he was brought into camp last month to help the young squad and has forced his way back into the team.
“It’s very exciting, isn’t it? He’s got such a unique story and he’s such a quality player when he’s on,” said Hooper.
“He’s got a real hunger to keep learning and keep growing as a player, so he is the right selection for the game. I think everyone’s pretty pumped to see him out there tomorrow.”
Sunday’s clash will also be a big day for Hooper, matching Gregan’s captaincy record and overtaking George Smith as the fifth most-capped Wallaby with his 112th appearance.
The tireless Hooper, regarded as one of the world’s best flanks, insisted he was strictly a team man and had never been interested in breaking individual records.
“In terms of the milestone, it’s not the reason you play a team sport, you’re in it for different reasons,” he said.
“But, yeah, it’s probably something that after my career I’ll look at.
“It’s never been a milestone of mine to rack up the amount of caps or captaincy appearances. I’ve just tried to keep doing my best and keep growing as a player and do those sorts of things.”
© Agence France-Presse
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