Samu Kerevi will captain the Queensland Reds in 2019 as the Super Rugby club moves on from the departure of James Slipper, Quade Cooper and Karmichael Hunt.
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Sonny Bill Williams has told Quade Cooper what’s most needed to surprise the doubters in his sevens gamble: “Buy a new set of lungs”.
Cooper has been a frustrated yet captivated spectator on day one of the Sydney 7s after being controversially overlooked by coach Andy Friend on physical grounds.
But he did get some valuable insight into the systems and structures of the Australian team, as well as a first-hand look at the gut-busting fitness requirements in the high-energy game.
Close mate Williams, cutting his teeth in his second tournament for New Zealand, also underlined the biggest challenge to adapt from traditional 15s play.
“He just said ‘if you get a chance buy a new set of lungs’,” Cooper told Fox Sports.
“Sevens is very hard on the body so for me I’m just going to do as much fitness as I can and just prepare myself as well as possible.”
Largely prevented from making his sevens debut due to his delayed release by French club Toulon last week, Cooper is talking as though he’ll be cleared to play in Las Vegas next month, and then Paris and London in May.
New Zealand coaching guru Sir Gordon Tietjens is among those who doubts that’s enough time to adapt to the game and has warned Australia could be badly exposed by the gamble.
But South Africa’s big-name convert, Francois Hougaard, believes if anyone can make it work, it’s the Wallabies showman.
The 35-Test Springboks halfback says the mercurial playmaker is ideally suited to sevens.
“Quade Cooper is a phenomenal athlete and he is the type of guy who adapts very quickly to any system,” Hougaard told AAP.
“I think sevens has a lot of structure and the Australian team has a lot of structure but he’s the sort of guy that slots in quickly.
“He’s a free-rein guy who has a lot of skills and can create for the team and the team can benefit a lot from him.
“I think it’s more than enough (tournaments). He would be a great sevens player.”
Unlike Cooper, Hougaard and Williams are sacrificing their Super Rugby seasons to make the Rio Games.
“I’m just grateful to be in such a great side,” Williams said. “I’m still learning the ropes but I’m loving the game of sevens at the moment.
“I knew I had to lose a few kilos and that after a few tournaments my fitness would get better.”