New Zealand battle past a dogged Argentina to set up Rugby World Cup semi-final against arch-rivals Australia.
|Not just the All Blacks in the spotlight – New Zealand-born Cooper had an eratic game in Australia’s 11-9 escape against South Africa and will be hoping for a better performance [GALLO/GETTY]|
Australia flyhalf Quade Cooper believes the pressure will all be on the land of his birth when the Wallabies face off against the All Blacks in the semi-finals of World Cup this weekend.
The mercurial 23-year-old Maori, who was born and grew up in New Zealand before moving to Australia as a teenager, has been dubbed public enemy number one by the local media and roundly booed during Australia’s five matches so far.
Cooper admitted the catcalling was not a distraction and said the pressure on the All Blacks to finally win a World Cup to add to their sole 1987 triumph would probably trump concerns about him scoring the winning points against them.
“That would be a bit of a tough one for them to swallow, I guess, but I’m sure that they’ve got a lot more things to worry about than myself,” he said.
“They’re supposed to have won the World Cup for the past three tournaments and this is no different.
“A lot of pressure is on them to win this competition on their home soil, so I’m sure they’ll be worrying about how they go about their game, more so than myself.”
Cooper’s form has not been as sparkling as it was when he was driving the Queensland Reds to the Super 15 title and Australia to the Tri-Nations title earlier this year.
Largely starved of possession in the 11-9 win over the Springboks last weekend, Cooper made some questionable calls when he did get the ball.
“It wasn’t the brightest performance,” he said.
“But with great teams, great athletes, it shows the character to not play at your best game and still come away with the points.
“It’s been a tough competition and we’ve been up against very good opposition throughout the World Cup and this week’s no different,” he added.
“We’re up against the number one team in the world and the guys who are supposed to win the tournament.”
Cooper said his own personal performance was not his greatest concern.
“Having a good game is going to play second fiddle to winning the game,” he said.
“I don’t care if I have a shocker and we win as a team.
“I’d much rather walk off the field as a winning team than walk off having the greatest game of my career and we lose the game.
“These are the moments you play rugby for, for an opportunity to play against the best team in the world, right in their backyard, in the World Cup semi-final,” he added.
“You can’t picture it any better than that.”
And, Cooper said, not everyone in New Zealand considered him the enemy.
“My Nan up in Kaikohe (in the northern tip of New Zealand) sends me a lot of text messages and says all her friends from the local bowls club are right behind me, and so that gives you a heartwarming boost of confidence,” he said.