Experienced Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper has been widely hailed following his match-winning performance against the Springboks in a Rugby Championship fixture last Sunday.
One person though who wasn’t at all surprised by the showing, and his call-up to the Australian side, is Bok boss Jacques Nienaber.
And he knows Cooper will again be a key figure when the sides clash again this weekend – in a rematch in Brisbane.
“What surprised me (about Cooper’s performance)? Nothing,” said Nienaber emphatically on Wednesday.
“Quade is a quality player; he’s always been a quality player.
“I remember coaching against him in Super Rugby when I was at the Stormers in 2011 and he was playing for the Reds. He and Will Genia were running riot then with Queensland.
“It’s always nice as a defence coach to measure yourself against someone like him.
“He has the same traits in him now as he did then… from just seeing, I see a mature game in him; he managed the game well last Sunday. His experience… it comes with age, and that’s why Dave (Rennie) picked him, he’s played 70 Tests.”
Nienaber was on Wednesday also asked about the difference between picking slightly older players and younger ones. The Boks have backed seniors like Morne Steyn (37) this season, while Frans Steyn is 34 and Duane Vermeulen 35. Cooper is 33.
“There’s a difference between being a good club player and moving into Test rugby; you grow into Test rugby,” explained Nienaber.
“You have to make mistakes, learn, get used to the pace, and that only comes after a couple of games.
“But it’s nice to have a balance too. It’s nice having experienced guys on one side, but also important to get the energy and playfulness from the youth.”
One thing is certain, the Bok players will have taken notice of Cooper and will be better prepared for him this week – if they weren’t fully prepared last week.
Many of the Bok players wouldn’t have faced Cooper before at Test level, the flyhalf having last played a Test in 2017 before last weekend, but they’ll now know that they simply cannot afford to give away any easy penalties – like they did last Sunday.