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Wed Dec 07 20:15:43 SAST 2016

Quade's chance to be liked

Simnikiwe Xabanisa | 2013-09-06 01:02:44.0

One of the things I've resigned myself to for the rest of my life is spending half of it making up for the bad first impressions I've made.

I'm one of those people who either underwhelms or offends when I meet new people.

I don't know if it's the big mouth or the big hair, but I tend to leave a sour taste after meeting new people.

First impressions being what they are, it's safe to say most of the folks I know don't particularly like me.

With his restoration to the starting lineup of the Wallabies team this week, I suspect Quade Cooper has a similar redemption job on his hands.

In these times of rugby by the numbers, one would think the gifted Cooper would be popular like his idol, former All Black flyhalf Carlos Spencer.

Yet he seems universally reviled by most people interested in the game.

The nations that make up Sanzar - South Africa, New Zealand and Australia - have a history of disagreeing on everything. But when it comes to the 25-year-old Cooper, they all reckon he's a tosser.

The New Zealanders hate him for two reasons: he's a Kiwi playing for the Wallabies, and he deliberately kneed their beloved captain, Richie McCaw, in the face during the 2011 Tri-Nations.

We don't like him for the choice words his then girlfriend, Olympic gold medal swimmer Stephanie Rice, had for the Saffers when his mate, Kurtley Beale, kicked the winning penalty in the Tri-Nations Test in Bloemfontein three years ago.

"Suck on that, fa***ts!" tweeted the comely young maiden.

While many would think the Aussies have the least to hate him for, it would appear they are the ones who despise what he stands for the most.

Apart from the fact that his prodigious talent has gone walkabout in critical games, they blame him, Beale and James O'Connor for the mess the Wallabies became under Robbie Deans.

The rot started when the so-called three amigos celebrated being named in the same Australian squad to play against Italy in Padova (2008) by taking to the busiest street in the city to pass to each other in traffic, when most players would have opted for a quiet night ahead of their big day.

The subsequent early morning returns to camp Wallaby and myriad other unpunished indiscretions led to the youngsters buying into their press to the extent that they felt nothing disrespecting Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, O'Neill got on the team bus to return to the hotel after the Wallabies had lost 22-0 to the All Blacks, only to be told by Beale: "You can't sit there, that's Quade's seat."

The culture of entitlement appears to have crept into Cooper's everyday life - he once broke into a house at the Gold Coast and stole two laptops (and got away with it).

There are other reasons why Cooper is almost universally unpopular.

The insouciance with which he plays is arrogance personified. He appears to aim to embarrass his opponents.

He also has an overdeveloped sense of individualism in a sport that prizes teamwork above all else.

If you want to know what too much individualism does to a rugby career, think Luke Watson.

Also, Quade doesn't like to tackle, which is the easiest way to get rugby fans to regard you with disdain.

Saturday might be just another Test, but for Cooper it's an opportunity to show the casual rugby fan there's more to him than everyone seems to think. That he's not just another gifted player with an entitlement problem.

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