Nick Phipps has paid a glowing tribute to Bernard Foley’s leadership skills and standard-bearing role as the Wallabies vice-captain prepares to notch his 50th Test cap.
Five-eighth Foley will reach the milestone in Sunday morning’s (AEST) Rugby Championship clash against South Africa in Bloemfontein.
His long-time offsider at the NSW Waratahs and in the Test team, halfback Phipps said the 28-year-old has matured and developed into one of the team’s most important figures.
Foley has been the most vocal player at Australia’s training base in Johannesburg this week, barking out instructions and keeping his teammates on their toes – and Phipps said it was having a huge impact.
“To be honest, my fondest memories (of Foley) would be the last two years, mainly this year,” Phipps said.
“He said at the start of the year he wants to be a better leader and the way he’s been able to slip into that role as vice-captain and really start to lead the team around – that maturity he’s developed over the last few years – has really enabled him to be our main guy, our main man.
“(He’s) the guy that’s calling the shots and really being hard and strong on the style we want to play.
“It’s great to see him reaping the rewards of that at the moment.”
Phipps is likely to retain his spot on the bench as back-up to Will Genia for the match against the Springboks at the Free State Stadium.
It will be an important gig in light of the lung-busting nature of rugby on the Highveld and one Phipps said he was relishing.
“I think that’s one of Michael Cheika’s biggest things,” he said.
“He wants those reserves, those finishers to come on the field and really add that spark and energy.
“It’s something we’re quite proud of, our bench – we want to try and be one of the best benches in the world to be able to close out a game or get us back into it.
“Especially (with) a lot of our newer players coming in off the bench, (to) give them that guidance is something that I really enjoy doing.
“Cheik’s had a good chat with me, that’s the role I can fulfil at the moment.”