Fresh Wallabies hookers can repair malfunctioning lineout: Hooper

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Michael Hooper has backed the Wallabies' inexperienced pair of hookers - who have just six Test caps between them - to repair Australia's malfunctioning lineout.

Tatafu Polota-Nau failed a fitness Test on Friday which ruled him out of the showdown with the Springboks and that leaves Folau Faingaa and Brandon Paenga-Amosa as the only hookers in the touring party.

Faingaa will be making his first Test start while Paenga-Amosa will be playing his first Test since the series decider in June.

Going up against the Boks lineout is an intimidating proposition at the best of times but doing it with two rookies is another matter altogether.

But while they may be inexperienced Hooper backed the pair to fire in the Port Elizabeth furnace.

"Unfortunate for the team and for Taf there," Hooper said at the captain's run on Friday.

"He has had a bit of an uncomfortable feeling in his hamstring there yesterday so the way we roll is to give him every opportunity there this morning where it wouldn't have been too long ago where he was ruled out this morning before the session.

"Our hookers are prepped, our hookers are ready to go.

"Folau has had a lot of time on the paddock over the last few weeks.

"He has been exposed to some big games and same with Brandon as well."

The pair must flourish from the outset as even Hooper admits the malfunctioning set piece has limited Australia's ability to unleash an attack which was flying this time last year.

"It hasn't been a functioning part of our team," he said.

"At times it has been okay but it hasn't been up to a standard we have been pleased with.

"You can stop our backs from getting the ball and they are dangerous from those starter plays.

"It's obvious that the Africans will come at us there and we will be looking to get clean ball there to really launch our attack.

"It isn't something we have really hit our straps yet with."

Port Elizabeth is known as South Africa's very own "Windy City" and there have been a few days featuring gale force winds this week.

While they hit 40km/h on Friday they are only predicted to hit 26km/h on game day.

Whether they hit Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium hard or not Hooper said his team must simply adapt.

"It will be a factor if it's in the game tomorrow but like anything both teams have to face it at one point during the game," he said.

"The interesting thing about that wind this morning... it was a beautiful morning and then within 10 minutes - I was out of having coffee - and within 10 minutes it really came on.

"It will be interesting tomorrow to see how it plays out.

"If it's quiet during the game then all of a sudden it can give you a fair smack in the face."

Australia's last start loss to Argentina could also be likened to a smack in the face.

Hooper was absent from the side due to a hamstring complaint but felt the exact same emotion as the rest of the Wallabies.

He's hoping that emotion won't rear it's head again this weekend.

"It seems like a while ago but probably the same emotion that the rest of the team felt," Hooper said.

"Very disappointed at the time but then you come out on the other side of that - it took a bit longer than usual to come out on the other side of that - and we are sitting here now really excited about the opportunity that is ahead.

"That is very much in the background now and it's about what's ahead, what's in the future and in the present, right now."

The Wallabies face the Springboks at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday morning, kicking off at 1:05am AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.