Australia keep faith with Reds halves, Giteau to support

Australia keep faith with Reds halves, Giteau to support

Despite having European champion Matt Giteau at his disposal, Australia coach Michael Cheika has named Quade Cooper at fly-half.

Australia's hopes against World Rugby's second-ranked side South Africa will rely heavily on Quade Cooper and Will Genia from the struggling Queensland Reds.

Cooper and Genia have been named at fly-half and scrum-half respectively in Michael Cheika's starting XV for Australia's Rugby Championship opener against the Springboks, having endured a tough campaign with the Reds.

Genia played all 16 games for the side this year and led Super Rugby for possessions, while also ranking highly for scrum-half runs and try assists, but could not save Queensland from finishing second last in the Australian Conference with just four wins.

Cooper struggled with various injuries and only played five matches.

Despite the pair's dubious record this year, Cheika declined the opportunity to utilise returning Wallaby Matt Giteau at fly-half for Saturday's Test in Brisbane, or Nick Phipps at scrum-half, with the latter wearing number nine for Australia's leading Super Rugby team in 2015 - the New South Wales Waratahs.

Instead, Giteau will line-up at inside-centre, while Phipps will start on the bench.

Cheika's assistant - Steve Larkham - reckons having Giteau as a pseudo number 10 will benefit Cooper.

"He knows how to play rugby at the top level," Larkham said.

"When things go wrong, and they're certainly going to go wrong, having someone like Gits [Giteau] there to give a bit of advice to Quade is going to be invaluable."

Giteau - back in the international fold after the Australian Rugby Union changed its policy on naming foreign-based players - has won three straight European titles with Toulon.

For South Africa, prodigy Jesse Kriel is set to make his senior international debut at outside centre.

Kriel - who can also play at fullback, fly-half and wing - helped South Africa's Under 20 side to a second-place finish at the 2014 Junior World Championship and started 13 Super Rugby games for the Bulls this year.

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said of Kriel: "Jessie has a major opportunity to stake a claim for the position and make it his own.

"It is up to him. I know he has not been playing at centre for the Bulls but he is a quality player. We are running out of time to get things in place so that we have options in England [at the Rugby World Cup]."

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