Cooper has been named to start at No 10 for the Wallabies for the first time since 2017, when he made the last of his 70 test appearances against Italy in Brisbane.
Since then, the 33-year-old has endured a turbulent four years that saw him dropped from the Queensland Reds by Brad Thorn in 2018, which was followed by a one-off spell with the Melbourne Rebels a year later.
Cooper’s move south wasn’t enough to win a re-call to the Wallabies squad for the 2019 World Cup, though, and that was enough for him to take up a deal abroad with the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners in Japan.
It’s there where he remains at club level, but a shock call-up to the Wallabies squad as injury cover for James O’Connor has paved the way for Cooper to return to the test arena, a prospect that will come to fruition at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday.
In doing so, Cooper replaces rookie first-five Noah Lolesio, who struggled in the three tests against the All Blacks after having initially impressed against a depleted French side in July.
Cooper will pair up with electric halfback Tate McDermott in the halves, while fellow Japan-based five-eighth Samu Kerevi will line up outside him at second-five.
Kerevi’s midfield partnership with Len Ikitau remains intact for this week’s clash against the Springboks, while the outside back trio of Marika Koroibete, Andrew Kellaway and Tom Banks is also unchanged.
In the forward pack, inexperienced loosehead prop Angus Bell gets his first start at test level after replacing the benched James Slipper in the No 1 jersey.
Lock Izack Rodda, meanwhile, comes into the starting team in place of Darcy Swain after marking his return to Australian rugby off the bench in last week’s defeat to the All Blacks in Perth.
A further two changes in the reserves could see hooker Feleti Kaitu’u and lock Rob Leota make their test debuts for the Wallabies after they were named on the pine both at the expense of Lachlan Longergan and to fill the void left by Rodda.