Dave Rennie believes Michael Hooper deserves his place among the Wallabies' greatest and in another era would be regarded by Australian rugby fans "as one of the best players in the world".
Hooper is poised to surpass George Gregan for most Tests as Wallabies captain as he looks to lead his side to a sweep of the world champion Springboks.
Hooper will captain the Wallabies, who have risen to fifth in the world rankings, for the 60th time when they face South Africa in a Rugby Championship clash at Lang Park on Saturday night.
Yet while Rennie marvels at Hooper's work ethic, leadership and poise under pressure, Australian rugby fans are still divided.
Rennie backs Hooper to eventually surpass Gregan's record of 139 Test caps, and perhaps had he played in Gregan's era the public perception would be vastly different.
MORE RUGBY UNION
"I think if people query his ability to play, I'm gobsmacked around that. You talk to players all around the world and rugby people all around the world, he is hugely respected," Rennie said.
"People's opinions often reflect on the success of the team. He's been the captain, so because the team loses and he is the skipper, that responsibility is on him. As you can see with our group, we've got a lot of young men and we're going to get better.
"He's a fantastic asset, he is a Wallaby great. I think if he was playing in a different era when you had a team full of very experienced players and seasoned players, and you're dominating the world, he'd go down as one of the best players in the world, one of the great Wallabies.
"I still think he will get that mantle, maybe not from everyone."
Rennie has made few changes to his side as they look to assert their dominance in Brisbane. where they have won eight straight games since 2016.
Veteran loosehead prop James Slipper will partner Taniela Tupou in a starting front-row rounded out by hooker Folau Fainga'a.
ACT Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White is the only change to the backline, called in to partner veteran flyhalf Quade Cooper with Tate McDermott moving back to the bench.
Tom Robertson returns on the bench chasing his first cap since 2018 following the departure of Allan Alaalatoa, while Darcy Swain is on the bench after overcoming a foot injury.
Hooper's historic Test marks his 113th cap for Australia. Only Gregan, Stephen Moore, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nathan Sharpe have played more, and Rennie expects Hooper can eventually leave them all in his wake.
"That would be no surprise. He is just so resilient," Rennie said.
"Even the other day against the All Blacks, Brodie Retallick splits him open ... certainly not malicious ... he gets 20-odd stitches on that cut, puts a hat on and gets back out there with the same intensity. Based on resilience so far, you'd think he'll play a lot more Tests.
"Considering he is 29 and has still potentially got a lot of footy in him. I'll start off as a player, his form has been incredible. You see it time and time again, the amount of collisions, his ability to link, his ability to show desperation and get back and make key tackles.
"He is a fantastic example to the rest of the group. He is very proud of his country and very proud of the jersey. High expectations and he is having a massive influence on this group.
"I'm not sure I've coached anyone who trains full-on like he does or plays full-on. He's been fantastic, a hell of an achievement."
THE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday, September 18: Australia v South Africa at 5.05pm; Argentina v New Zealand at 8.05pm. Both games at Lang Park.
Wallabies squad: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Lachlan Swinton, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Nic White, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Samu Kerevi, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andrew Kellaway, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Feleti Kaitu'u, 17. Angus Bell, 18. Tom Robertson, 19. Darcy Swain, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Reece Hodge, 23. Jordan Petaia.
Springboks squad: 1. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Marvin Orie, 6. Siya Kolisi (c), 7. Franco Mostert, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 9. Faf de Klerk, 10. Handre Pollard, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 12. Damien de Allende, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 15. Willie le Roux. Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Steven Kitshoff, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Marco van Staden, 20. Kwagga Smith, 21. Jasper Wiese, 22. Herschel Jantjies, 23. Damian Willemse.
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