HSBC Sevens World Series
Francois Hougaard backs Quade Cooper to make Australia's Olympic team
ESPN Staff
February 6, 2016
Quade Cooper watches his Australia 7s team-mates warm-up © Getty Images
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The Springboks' big-name Sevens convert, Francois Hougaard, has no doubt Quade Cooper can gain Olympics selection despite limited exposure to rugby's frenetic shortened format.

Cooper has only two or three HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments to prove his worth to Australia's Thunderbolts, after moving from Australia to play for French Top 14 powerhouse and European Rugby Champions Cup holders Toulon, and there are now grave doubts whether the Wallabies showman has enough time to learn the game, lift his aerobic fitness and jell with team-mates after being overlooked for the Sydney 7s at Allianz Stadium.

He is now guaranteed a release by Toulon only for tournaments in Paris and London in May, while the ARU is optimistic he may also play in Las Vegas after what Greg Growden described as the "gutsy" decision to leave him out of the Sydney squad.

Hougaard has sacrificed a full Super Rugby season with the Bulls to boost his hopes of making the South African Blitzboks team for the Rio de Janeiro, but he believes Cooper is capable of proving his worth of a restricted campaign because he suited to Sevens and has the skill and nous to make a swift transition.

"Quade Cooper is a phenomenal athlete and he is the type of guy who adapts very quickly to any system," Hougaard said after South Africa had opened their Sydney 7s campaign with a crushing performance against Scotland.

"I think Sevens has a lot of structure and the Australian team has a lot of structure but he's the sort of guy that slots in quickly.

"He's a free-rein guy who has a lot of skills and can create for the team and the team can benefit a lot from him.

"I think it's more than enough [tournaments]. He would be a great Sevens player."

New Zealand coaching guru Sir Gordon Tietjens, however, doubts Cooper has enough time to adapt to the game, warning that Australia could be badly exposed by the gamble.

Like the South Africans with Hougaard, the Kiwis have their star recruit, Sonny Bill Williams, available for all legs of the World Series. By contrast, Australia are rolling the dice with Cooper, Henry Speight and Nick Cummins, with the Wallabies wingers set to play four tournaments.

Hougaard, who is largely coming off the bench for South Africa, is confident he can book a ticket to Rio.

"I want to prove myself as a rugby player, as a sportsman," he said. "For me it doesn't feel like I've really achieved anything for myself and I'm going to go out and give it my best shot."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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