Incumbent Wallabies No.7 Michael Hooper has the answer to his selection battle with David Pocock for Australia’s Rugby Championship opener against South Africa.
Pick both men.
One of the key selection debates leading into the clash with the Springboks in Brisbane has been whether Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will stick by Hooper or omit him in favour of fit-again Pocock.
Since Pocock’s last Test against Wales in December 2012, Hooper has cemented himself as Australia’s openside flanker.
The 23-year-old knows his position is under threat but can also see no reason he and Pocock can’t co-exist in the same lineup.
“I don’t see why not,” Hooper said.
“His skillset is fantastic and I think it would be complementary. But then again there’s other guys who would miss out because of that who bring some really good stuff. Coach’s decision and really hard for him to make.”
The door remains slightly ajar for such a scenario given Pocock can play across the backrow if needed.
The strongest argument for picking Pocock is Australia’s record against the Springboks when he is in the team.
In the seven matches Pocock’s started against South Africa, the Wallabies have won six.
His performance against the Springboks in the 2011 rugby World Cup quarter-final was his last appearance against the South Africans and was his most memorable.
In contrast Australia have won just two of the six Tests against the Springboks during Pocock’s injury-enforced absence with Hooper in the starting lineup.
Hooper says whoever does get the nod for Saturday’s game, there’s no doubt they’ll be in for a mammoth night.
“Looking at the South Africans and looking at us, you’re able to create a bit more running and get that ball movement and ball speed up,” Hooper said.
“The South Africans always have a sharp backrow, they’ve got plenty of players who do a really good job in that role. It’s going to be a spot that’s tough to deal with.”
In addition to possibly losing his starting spot, Hooper has also had the captaincy taken from him.
Hooper has been named as a vice-captain under Stephen Moore, with the veteran hooker regaining the role he held for just one game last year before a knee injury cut short his season.
Hooper says the decision is fine with him.
“Business as usual. We had that taste of it last year, albeit very briefly but I’ve played a lot with Stephen at the Brumbies and Wallabies now and have a really good friendship and partnership to work off with each other,” he said.
“I’ve really enjoyed what he’s been doing in his time as captain.”