It was pointed out to me recently that I’ve reached that very nervous milestone of 99 Roar articles, not out. Therefore, I have various choices to reach my hundred.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has slammed a claim that fellow backrower Wycliff Palu “dogged it” against the All Blacks as unwarranted and inaccurate.
Former Wallaby fullback turned commentator Greg Martin told Fox Sports show Rugby HQ that Palu “let down Australia” and “dogged it” during their 51-20 thumping from the All Blacks at Eden Park.
While some believe it was no more than a deliberate attempt to fire up the 120kg No.8 ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks in Perth, Hooper was quick to jump to his teammate’s defence.
“Well, he was the top tackler at Eden Park, made the most carries,” Hooper said.
“The amount that he gets through and the impact that he has on the game is huge.
“Taking a shot at Cliffy is unwarranted because the guy is a servant of the game and somebody who does put their body on the line.
“(The comments) are not accurate in the slightest.”
Hooper also played down the effect the comments would have on Palu, saying opinions were just part and parcel of rugby.
“Throughout Super Rugby, throughout Tests, if things aren’t going well people are going to have shots at you,” Hooper said.
“I don’t think Cliffy will get wound up about it.
“But he’s always got something to prove to the guys and I think if you give the guy extra motivation, then jeez, that’s not a bad thing.”
With wet conditions forecast for the Patersons Stadium clash, Palu and the other Wallabies forwards will have to be at their absolute best if they want to win back the Mandela Challenge Plate they lost to South Africa last year after holding it for three seasons.
“They’ve got two things that we want,” Hooper said.
“They’re number two in the world and they’ve got the Mandela Plate.”
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has prepared for a typically brutal battle up front, as indicated in his decision to go with a forwards heavy 6-2 bench split.
Hooker James Hanson will face a baptism of fire in his run-on Test debut, with Springboks great Victor Matfield sure to give him a tough night at the lineout in his return game against Australia.
In the Wallabies’ backline, McKenzie has replaced flyhalf Kurtley Beale and halfback Nic White with the NSW Waratahs’ Super Rugby title-winning combination of Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps.
Yet the Springboks have also tweaked their backs, bringing in cool-headed flyhalf Morne Steyn and outside centre Jan Serfontein to prepare for what they describe as a “dangerous” Wallabies backline.
“But the weather tomorrow will probably prohibit them (Wallabies) from playing how they’d like to,” Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said.
The game will also be Springboks dangerman Bryan Habana’s 100th Test, while de Villiers is just one match behind him.
“The fact Bryan is playing his 100th gives (this Test) a different feel,” de Villiers said.
“It would be great to make it a special day for him.”