“There’s a lot of people who are afraid to say what they feel so they just go along with it and nothing is going to change,” Cooper told Australian Associated Press at the weekend. “That’s why I feel so strongly as a player. I don’t want to be involved in the toxic environment, and that’s how it is at the moment.”
Cooper has also tweeted his displeasure at Wallabies coach Robbie Deans’ game plan, saying he was only allowed to play the attacking brand of rugby he favours from “February to May” at the Queensland Reds in SuperRugby.
But Ashley-Cooper said there was a very convivial mood in the Wallabies camp.
“I’m not aware of what the tweets are saying, but you can’t ignore social media, it’s a big part of the game. But it won’t be a distraction for us.
“There’s a great buzz in the squad and we’re excited to be here. We’ve had two good wins and we feel that we’re building as a group,” Ashley-Cooper told a news conference in Johannesburg on Monday.
While Australia have come from behind to win their last two Tests, against South Africa and Argentina, Deans is still under enormous pressure at home, mainly due to his record of just two wins in his last 16 matches against the All Blacks for the Bledisloe Cup.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is also feeling the heat with his team managing just a win and a draw against Argentina thus far in the Rugby Championship.
“I think the Springboks are facing similar challenges to us with a lot of injuries and having to give opportunities to younger blokes. But those youngsters bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy which the older guys can feed off.
“The Springboks are coming off two disappointing losses so they’ll be pretty motivated and we expect it to be really tough to win in Pretoria.
“The challenge is greater for us away from home, we have two really tough games on a pretty tough trip and with the travel conditions added in, so there’s no room for complacency,” Ashley-Cooper said.
The 28-year-old veteran of 71Tests and numerous SuperRugby games against the Pretoria-based Bulls said Loftus Versfeld would not be a place for the faint-hearted on Saturday.
“Playing at Loftus is always pretty tough, you’re usually up against quality opposition there and a hostile crowd that they feed off. Plus the altitude and the pace of the game there means it’s always a challenge. A win is something we’ve never achieved before in Pretoria, we came close in 2010 [31-44], so there’s a lot of motivation for us,” Ashley-Cooper said.
Australia’s coaching co-ordinator, Tony McGahan, said despite criticism that the Springboks’ game plan was dull and conservative in comparison to the Wallabies’, every top international team employed similar tactics.
“Generally, most sides have the same principles with just small variations from week-to-week depending on the opposition and the conditions. But the core values are set in stone.
“You need a bit of both possession and territory. You use possession to gain territory and that’s how you control the scoreboard, converting field position into points. It will continue to be that way in test rugby.
“There will be more cause to have a penalty against you when you’re running the ball out of your own half, but you tend to get more favour from possession on attack. It also depends on the quality of your possession,” McGahan said.
Australia will name their team for Saturday’s Test on Thursday, while South Africa’s squad will be announced on Wednesday.