Scott Robertson When he took over as Crusaders coach in 2017, the first thing he did was change the captain.
It was, in Robertson’s words, “a big decision.”
All Blacks captain Kieran Read made Sam Whitelock captain, asking him to back his long-time Test teammate.
The Crusaders under Robertson won four Super Rugby titles and two Super Rugby Aotearoa titles for the first time since Robbie Deans’ final year in 2008.
“Look, they were close,” Robertson said in an exclusive interview in May, describing what he did to turn the Crusaders back into the juggernaut they once were.
But they failed to win few times in games.
Late last month, Eddie Jones also made a big decision.
Instead of handing over the captaincy to a fit-again Owen Farrell, who took over from Dylan Hartley permanently in 2018, he has stuck with Courtney Laws and changed the captaincy for the third time in seven years in England.
Jones said before the Wallabies’ opening Test in Perth that Farrell was “not very happy” when asked how he was after the captaincy switch.
“Owen is an outspoken brat who wants to be captain.
“He was not very happy when I told him he was not going to be captain. He’s had a good time out of the team and we feel at this stage it’s great for the team and for Owen because he’s a very important player for us.
“I didn’t expect him to be happy, I expected him to be unhappy and that was the kind of reaction I was looking for because that’s who he is.”
Which brings us to Michael Hooper.
The 30-year-old is the Wallabies’ senior captain, just 18 tries shy of 141 for George Gregan’s Wallabies.
He has been one of the mainstays in the Wallabies over the years.
Three successive coaches have entrusted Hooper with the captaincy and another, Deans, in 2012 gave him the open-side striker.
When the chips are down and there has been no shortage of moments over the years, Hooper is the only one who hasn’t stopped experimenting in the middle. It has been the glue that holds the Wallabies together.
But after another series of defeats, this time against England, is it time for a new voice to lead the Welshmen forward?
His current winning record is an unimpressive 41 per cent (68 Tests – 28 wins, 34 losses and six draws) – the only Wallabies captain to lose (at least 10 Tests) since 1996.
Statistics do not paint the whole picture. But at least they reveal something.
Hooper has support from his teammates and coaches.
Many sources close to the team believe Hooper is the best and only option to continue leading the Walleyes.
His teammates believe he has confidence and an “aura” about him. When he speaks, the group listens.
Hooper, along with James Slipper and James O’Connor, is said to be one of three players to challenge Wallis coach Dave Rennie.
There is also a feeling in camp that Hopper’s performances will continue to be consistent throughout the team, as evidenced by his four-time John Eales Medalist, including the past two seasons.
And one outsider believes Hooper has had a new perspective on management since his weekend in Japan, where he will remain with Reading and World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as director of rugby at Toyota Verblitz.
However, the Warriors still failed to win the tight matches under Hooper.
The Walleyes failed to capitalize on their 2-1 win over a highly competitive French side last year and a five-game winning streak at home to South Africa and Argentina twice. It shows as much.
The Walleyes lost all three Tests against the All Blacks last year.
They won’t go from four to three: Rennie is already exploring tweaking the Guiteau rule in the Wallabies’ dilemma.
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They then lost narrow matches against Scotland, England and Wales on their end-of-season tour of Europe, which Hooper missed through injury.
In England, the Colts had impressive and character-filled victories in Perth, but failed to capitalize on opportunities to go down against Jones’ side in Brisbane and Sydney.
Could a different pitch, perhaps a different decision-making, choosing to go for a goal instead of a corner, narrowing the deficit turn into a win for the Wallis?
As things stand now, who else can step up to take the lead?
Given the recent spate of injuries and constant turnover on the team, the Colts have struggled to develop leaders at their positions.
Brumbies captain Allan Ala’alatoa is well-respected but is competing against Tanila Tupu every week and Nick White’s spat with referees makes it difficult to step up.
White is also vying for the role with halfbacks Jake Gordon and Tati McDermott, two of his apprentices who held the captaincy at the Waratahs and Reds.
Slider, too, is in a battle with Angus Bell to start at loose-head prop.
But 33-year-old Hooper stood up in his absence against Wales last November and is widely respected.
One player who has not yet been considered by anyone is Samu Kerevi.
The issue is the 28-year-old Fiji-born center is working with Suntory in Japan, and Rugby Australia cannot appoint an overseas player as Wallabies captain.
Kerevi, however, is considering a return home when his contract with Suntory expires early next year.
In the year He also has leadership experience having been controversially appointed Queensland captain by Nick Stiles in 2017.
While Kerevi was named captain of the rugby establishment, the midfielder thrived on the exposure and is said to have evolved into the role over time.
It now ranks as one of the best centers in the world and is respected by everyone at the Wallabies.
In the year He could have a similar impact as Sia Kolisi, who effectively led the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2018 after being appointed boss by Rassie Erasmus.
Forced to leave Fiji and then the Solomon Islands due to civil war, Kerevi’s story of growing up with his grandparents is a powerful one.
It is a strong voice of the over-represented Pacific population that reflects modern Australian rugby.
It is not known if the added responsibilities will hamper Kerevin’s performances.
Test captaincy goes beyond the field of play, the additional responsibilities are immense.
A change in leadership doesn’t mean Hopper’s role on the team has to change.
After all, former England cricket captain Joe Root has continued to run out centuries after handing over the captaincy to Ben Stokes. However, it has seen England snap a four-match winning streak in Test cricket, winning just one game in the last 12 months.
The question is what has changed in the England cricket team and indeed the rugby side?
Very small, but maybe a different sound.