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The Roar



Quade Cooper versus the Boks: What could possibly go wrong?

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11th September, 2021
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Quade Cooper? Quade Cooper! Quade! Bloody! Cooper! Well, how about that.

Starting in the ten in Sunday’s Test match, dear old Quade Cooper. Insert Zimmer frame gag here.

Or don’t. And revel in it. And gawk through splayed fingers at the possibilities, good and ill.

For there was a time Cooper was the funkiest, hot-stepping pole cat around. He was Carlos Spencer and Benji Marshall. He was all arms and legs and possibility, eyes going one way, chest facing another, lower body bouncing him off on a tangent, popping the ball into space or pretending to.

The man was entertaining and compelling, and the Queensland Reds won the 2011 Super Rugby final, which for the mathematically-minded is a decade and three World Cups ago.

And now he’s back, from outer space, we walked in to find him here with that sad look upon his face, we should have changed that stupid lock, we should have made him leave his key if we’d known for just one second he’d be back to bother, um, we.


But no! Welcome back, Kotter. And Quade Cooper. Let’s revel in an inspired selection from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, at least in terms of drumming up interest in Sunday night’s Round 3 Rugby Championship Test match between Australia and South Africa, which can occasionally need an enema, more on that shortly.

So: is he good enough? He won’t have forgotten how to play. It’s more whether his body, which has been enduring ten-month professional rugby seasons for 15 years, can come along for the ride his mind wants to take it and all of us.

Quade Cooper poses during a portrait session

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for the ARU)

You assume he’s fit enough. His paymasters at Hanazono Kintetsu Liners wouldn’t be throwing good money after bad partnering he and Will Genia in the halves.

Thirty-three isn’t old, even in Test match rugby years. Michael Cheika brought back Matt Giteau aged 33. Kurtley Beale is 32 and in good form in France according to France Bleu, which reported: “Mais rapidement la tendance s’inverse, en moins de 3 minutes les parisiens inscrivent 14 points grâce au doublé de Kurtley Beale”, which Google translate as “They picked Quade Cooper?”

(No, it says: “But quickly the trend is reversed, in less than three minutes the Parisians register 14 points thanks to the double of Kurtley Beale.”)

Anyway, Quade’s back and it leaves us wondering: what is the meaning of this?

It’ll mean a break from scrutiny for 21-year-old Noah Lolesio, who’s been missing penalty goals, threw an intercept pass, and has played the All Blacks four times in his first seven Tests.


It’ll mean Tate McDermott is slinging it out to yet another ten-12-13 combination. I wish they’d set-and-forget Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia in the centres and tell them they’re Tim Horan and Jason Little, even if they don’t mean it. Bring Samu Kerevi on with 20 to go. But let those kids run free.

It’ll mean the world champion Springboks – who have the advantage over Australia in that they can select whomever they want regardless of where they play domestic rugby – will have to scour video of Cooper playing footy in Japan to get a handle on what’s coming from the one-time wild child.

(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

And it’ll mean that we, the viewing public, will be entertained, for good or ill. Because whatever else he is, Cooper is essential viewing. Because nobody knows what’s going to happen, including him. There’s story in his moves. People love a story.

So there is all that, and a bit more. And it presents as a tasty layer of cream on the cherry cheesecake of Sunday evening’s Test match, which like the Socceroos who twice beat China in World Cup qualifiers, hasn’t been at fever pitch in terms of national interest.

But one man is doing his best.

South African rugby scribe Mark Keohane – not, admittedly, a favourite scribe of our erudite (and handsome) readers – has described the Wallabies as “wimps” and says “Siya Kolisi’s world champion Springboks will wallop them”.

“They keep on talking themselves up and they keep on presenting themselves as 24-Carat Gold but they are doing it off the back of a historic edge over the Springboks in Australia since international readmission in 1993,” wrote Keohane.


Now, maybe I’ve been reading news from a different Google to Mark. But not sure anyone in Australian rugby, be they press, pundit, player, coach, administrator or fan, has been “talking up” the Wallabies because… well, how could you?

They only just beat France B. They’ve just come off three-blot against the All Blacks whom they haven’t won a series against in 20 years.

(Photo by Getty Images)

And they were rissoled in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup won by South Africa.

For balance, our man writes: “The Boks haven’t won in Australia in five Tests over a five-year period. That had more to do with former Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s tenure than the quality of the Wallabies.”

How’s the Marge Simpson meme go? Hmmmm…

Or maybe that’s right. Maybe anyone can have a bad half-decade.

Maybe it will be “champ up against chump and the scoreboard will reflect this”.


But if our man thinks Australian rugby is talking itself up against South Africa he’s clearly stuck in lockdown with his head up his arse looking for angles and clicks by trying to channel the Welsh wit and polemicist Stephen Jones.

Because far as I can tell, at least on this Google, all Australian rugby’s been talking up is Indigenous designs, how big the Boks are and the return of a front-row forward so old he was of drinking age when Australia last won the Bledisloe Cup.

And now Quade Cooper.

All that said, though, it’s good stuff. And if he’s offering 20.5 start for a carton, you’d take it.

Because: Quade Cooper.