‘It’s Cooper and Kerevi’: How Brown saw Wallabies’ Springboks stunners

Japan’s attack coach Tony Brown had a vested interest in watching the Wallabies beat South Africa two weeks in a row.

Brown is currently in Japan, going through his third quarantine window of the year so far, and when he gets out the Highlanders coach will get to work trying to beat the Wallabies in Oita on October 23.

It would be a major scalp for Japan given the Wallabies’ past two Tests, but Brown boils the apparent form reversal down to two reasons.

First, Samu Kerevi and Quade Cooper.

Second, the All Blacks have taken their game to such a level that the Wallabies’ mistakes were ruthlessly punished, something South Africa weren’t capable of.

“There were a couple of selection changes there for the two games against the Springboks, and Quade Cooper made a massive difference,” Brown tells the Herald.

Japan’s attack coach has credited Australia’s turnaround to Samu Kerevi and Quade Cooper, pictured here after beating Argentina in 2016, as the Wallabies and Pumas prepare to lock horns again.Credit:Getty

“Their game’s definitely improved. They were under real pressure, the Aussies, and they performed really well.

“It’s a tough game to play against the All Blacks, because the All Blacks are pretty ruthless when they turn over the ball.

“There’s been a massive improvement in the All Blacks this year. They’ve gone to another level.

“They are getting a lot more turnovers, and they are very hard to attack against for a long period of time, and the Wallabies felt a bit of pressure against the All Blacks.

“But against the Springboks they found it a bit easier.

“But again, that could be Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi controlling those Tests. Those changes improved the Australian team massively.”

That assessment will be music to the ears of Wallabies’ fans, who can take comfort from the fact that for most of the Bledisloe Cup series, the Wallabies were without their two most influential players.

Statistics provided to the Herald and The Age by Stan Sport’s Kate Lorimer also point to both a genuine improvement from the Wallabies, as well as the obvious point about the Springboks lacking the All Blacks’ cutting edge.

For example, although the Wallabies’ ability to break the line was consistent against the All Blacks and Springboks, their ability to convert those chances into points lifted from 43 per cent to 54 per cent.

Quade Cooper has barely put a foot wrong since his stunning Wallabies recall.Credit:Getty

As a result, the number of points the Wallabies scored in each visit to the 22m almost doubled, from 2 against the All Blacks to 3.64 against the Springboks.

It’s hard to quantify how much Cooper and Kerevi have helped the Wallabies’ composure levels, although you would be hard-pressed to find a moment where either has made an unforced error in the past two Tests.

Even under pressure – Cooper being hit hard by Duane Vermeulen last week is a good example – Cooper and Kerevi have found a way to maintain possession, with Cooper proving particularly adept at dropping the ball off to a teammate.

Their influence makes Wallabies coach Dave Rennie’s decision on how to use them for the rest of the year all the more interesting. For all the talk about covering fullback, James O’Connor has been picked as No.10 cover against Argentina on Saturday, and it may be that starting the Reds playmaker there in coming Tests will take the load off Cooper.

Samu Kerevi makes a break against the Springboks earlier this month.Credit:Getty

As for Brown, he is relishing the chance to get his attack working when the Wallabies play Japan next month.

With just one training camp before the Test, Brown says they will be a bit “underdone”, and confirms that Japan will be without France-based winger Kotaro Matsushima as the game will take place outside a sanctioned World Rugby Test window.

However, don’t read too much into that. Japan created opportunities with ease against the British and Irish Lions and Ireland in June and July, scoring 31 points against the latter in a narrow loss in Dublin.

“Just getting the guys back to the fitness levels required was important,” Brown says of those Tests.

“Then we can actually put those Tier 1 teams under pressure and win some games. We’re tracking really well in that space. It should be a good test for us against Aussie, Scotland and Ireland coming up.”

The Wallabies may need Cooper and Kerevi in the country where they now play their club footy.

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