Cooper and Co transform Australia

Wynand Olivier of South Africa's Springboks is tackled by Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale (R) of Australia's Wallabies during their Tri-Nations rugby union match in Sydney July 23, 2011.

Wynand Olivier of South Africa's Springboks is tackled by Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale (R) of Australia's Wallabies during their Tri-Nations rugby union match in Sydney July 23, 2011.

Published Jul 24, 2011


Australia's victory over South Africa on Saturday was built on a much improved performance by the forwards but it the flair of the young backline which caught the eye and on which the Wallabies' World Cup hopes rest.

Halfbacks Quade Cooper and Will Genia were behind most of the best Wallabies moves in the Tri-Nations opener, attacking the Springboks with pace and variety and linking well with the back three of Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor and Digby Ioane.

Their bright performance went some way to banishing the memory of last week's humiliating defeat to Samoa and, with a few more passes going to hand, they could have scored even more than the five tries they ran in on the way to a 39-20 win.

“Rugby's never a perfect game, I'm very happy with the attitude of the boys and the way everyone just kept backing up,” flyhalf Cooper told reporters after the game.

“We could have scored a few more tries but also there was a few ones we did make. Like that try James O'Connor did could have been a knock on and it was great skill to scoop that up and score it.

“At times, very happy with parts but it's never going to be a perfect game.”

Although a youthful band - Cooper and Genia are 23, O'Connor is 21 and Beale 22 - the key Wallabies backs are brimming with confidence and form a bantering, tweeting tight-knit group off the field.

“It's great to be playing with those boys again,” Cooper said of O'Connor and Beale. “The skill that they show... we're great mates away from football and I think that shows out on the field.

“The amount of time that we spend together gives us a good understanding of where we are out on the field. We're just having fun.”

Cooper and his coach Robbie Deans also lauded the efforts of another 23-year-old, Pat McCabe, who had a strong game at inside centre in just his third test.

“He goes hard and that's what you want from your centres, guys who are fronting up in attack and defence and he's one of those sort of guys,” said Cooper, who played with McCabe in the Australian schoolboys in 2005.


Genia, the standout player of the Super rugby season, may be in his early 20s but he plays like a much more experienced scrumhalf and he again showed how vital he is to Wallabies success both in organising the forwards and sparking the backs.

“He's a good player, he's a threat around the edges, he again showed today,” admitted Springboks skipper John Smit. “We tried to prepare for him as best we could but we still made defensive errors when he took us around the blindside.

“He keeps guys busy and he forces defenders to make decisions so he's a pretty good player.”

Another plus for the Wallabies was the kicking of O'Connor, who converted six of his seven attempts for two penalties and four conversions.

“That was a good kicking effort, no surprise for us because we see it in training,” said Deans. “It was great for him to get that experience, there's no replacement for that.”

Having put the Samoa defeat behind them, the Wallabies headed up to the Gold Coast on Sunday for two weeks to prepare for their next match against the All Blacks in Auckland on Aug. 6.

“We get some time to regather, recover, attend to a bit of detail and really hone in on the opportunity we've got at Eden Park,” Deans added.

“The legs were better, the boys went the distance, but it's going to go up another notch. But that's good, we're looking forward to that.” - Reuters

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