Coach Michael Cheika said Friday he is looking for halves Quade Cooper and Will Genia to provide the variation to trouble the Springboks in their Rugby Championship Test in Brisbane.
Cooper and long-time Queensland Reds halves partner Genia will be reunited for Australia in Saturday’s southern hemisphere series opener at Suncorp Stadium.
Cheika said he agonised over the decision to go with the Test veteran pair – who featured at the 2011 World Cup – ahead of incumbents Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps and indicated their more diverse playbook swayed him.
Cooper has also helped steer the Wallabies to victory in seven of his 11 previous clashes with the Springboks.
“I just thought these two lads were the right guys to do the job in this Test match,” Cheika told reporters.
“The skill set they’ve got is something that I want to see them use against South Africa, the variation they might bring to the game.
“It was a very difficult choice but it’s one I really believe in.”
A strong performance from Cooper and Genia will put them in the box seat as Cheika’s first-choice options in the count down to the World Cup in England and Wales later this year.
There are only five Tests left before Australia’s opening World Cup match against Fiji and Cheika has initially preferred the Reds pair over Foley and Phipps, who played this season under Cheika at the New South Wales Waratahs.
Captain Stephen Moore said time was of the essence for the Wallabies.
“You look at the calendar and it’s three and a bit months and the World Cup’s over,” Moore said.
“It’s an unbelievably short period of time so we need to really focus on getting it right early and getting some momentum before we go over there.”
Moore warned not to expect too much too soon from the new-look Wallabies.
They could take time to gel with a new combination around the scrumbase and inside backs, including the return of French-based Matt Giteau at inside centre alongside Cooper and Genia and the preference for Scott Higginbotham over incumbent Ben McCalman at No 8.
“We know it’s not going to be the finished product tomorrow, it’s not going to go perfectly, but we’ll go out there and do our best,” said Moore.
South African captain Victor Matfield admitted he was wary of Giteau after leaving his Barbarians experience at Twickenham in 2009 impressed by the Australian.
“I was lucky enough to play in a Barbarians game with him,” Matfield said on Friday.
“He is a quality player who understands the game and understands how to win games.
“You see what he has done for Toulon – he will bring a lot to the team.”
But Matfield backed South Africa’s new look midfield combination, saying Australia were in the same boat with Giteau’s addition.
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer named the rookie midfield pairing Damian de Allende, who has played just three Tests, and debutant Jesse Kriel.
“They are very young but that is good, you need that excitement of the youngsters coming through,” 121-Test line-out master Matfield said.
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