Quade Cooper, Israel Folau in pivotal switch at Wallabies for Saturday test match
Desperate to reverse a run of losses, Australia have restored some X-factor at flyhalf and put extra emphasis on their biggest attacking weapon by recalling Quade Cooper at No 10 and moving Israel Folau from wing to fullback for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against South Africa.
Ex-rugby league international and Australian Rules football convert Folau played all of his five tests on the wing, but new - and so-far winless - Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has switched him to fullback to make the most of his aerial skills and his attacking potential.
The recall of Cooper, who fell out of favour under former Australia coach Robbie Deans and has not played a test match in almost a year, and Folau's positional move are two of four changes to the starting line-up announced yesterday.
The No2-ranked South Africa made three personnel changes and two positional switches to the line-up, who scraped to a 22-17 comeback win over Argentina at Mendoza in their last start. The Springboks have never beaten Australia at Suncorp Stadium, the venue for Saturday's test.
Bismarck du Plessis takes over at hooker and as vice-captain from Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe was elevated to the starting line-up in place of lock Juandre Kruger and Zane Kirchner returns at fullback, forcing Willie le Roux to shift to the wing.
"A few of these changes are purely rotational to give guys with fresh legs a go, while others are simply a case of horses for courses," Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said.
For Australia, Sekope Kepu comes off the bench to replace Ben Alexander at tighthead and Nick Cummins will start on the wing. Matt Toomua and Jesse Mogg, who started at 10 and 15 in the opening two Rugby Championship losses to New Zealand, were dropped to the bench.
Australia are "really deferring to tactically how we want to go about it and putting guys in positions we think they can give us some really good value", McKenzie said.
"We've won one test in the last five, so we're going to keep exploring around the edges."
McKenzie, who replaced Deans after the 2-1 series loss to the British & Irish Lions in July, said Australia must use their strengths of speed and versatility against a South Africa attack based on size and a 10-man style.
"If we can create space, that'll be part of it, but then [Folau] will create his own opportunities as he's done all year," he said. "If you've got guys like Quade inside who's got not just vision, but multiple-phase vision about where opportunities will be, that relationship will develop as the game goes on."