The Wallabies will not be lulled into a false sense of security by South Africa’s poor year at Super Rugby level, assistant coach Nathan Grey says.
For the first time since 2003, there were no South African teams in the semi-finals of the transcontinental competition, and World Cup expectations for the Springboks have tempered somewhat as a result.
As the Wallabies prepare to face the Boks next Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium in the opening match of the Rugby Championship, Grey said it is folly to read too much into what Super Rugby results say about the strength of national teams.
“History clearly shows that Super Rugby form is important and it assists in your national side’s preparations,” Grey said.
“But it’s certainly not a clear indicator of how they’re going to go.
“To say (South Africa) didn’t have someone in the finals has the same weight as saying `both the same Kiwi teams were in the final, so New Zealand are going to be outstanding’.
“You look at the Highlanders team and not one of their forwards is in the All Blacks, so it goes to show that the step-up is significant, and the coaches are going to pick their teams accordingly.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will start to reveal his own plans on that front towards the end of the week, when he trims back his original 40-man squad.
Quade Cooper has been one of the standout performers on the training paddock to position himself as the frontrunner for the No.10 jersey against South Africa.
Despite two separate shoulder fractures that ruined his Super Rugby season, and a mysterious third shoulder injury which hampered his pre-Wallabies preparations, Cooper looks in fantastic touch and would relish an opportunity to play in front of a Brisbane crowd, given the rather acrimonious way his talks with the Queensland Reds over a possible contract extension suddenly ceased.
Grey was giving little away as to the make-up of the backline, or the prime candidates for the 10-man squad cull that needs to occur by next week.
“We want everyone with the expectation that they’re running on against South Africa in a week’s time,” he said.
“That’s the mindset of everyone and then it’s up to us as coaches to sit down and get that ideal side.
“There’s a number of possibilities with guys across the backline.
“We want to have our strike weapons with the ball in hand and there’s a lot of those in the team.”