Sydney - Five talking points ahead of this weekend's Round 13 Super Rugby matches:
Quade wrecked and fried
Quade Cooper has admitted his return to top-level rugby with the Melbourne Rebels has left him "wrecked".
The mercurial flyhalf only played club rugby last season after being dumped by Reds coach Brad Thorn and said he badly needed the week off afforded by last weekend's bye.
"I was feeling it - my body was pretty wrecked and mentally I was pretty fried," he told reporters.
"Coming off a club footy season into eight straight games - the physicality and the intensity each week was a big step up.
"That bye was great to have for all of us, but more for me. I feel very much refreshed."
The Rebels, who top a tight Australian conference, face Cooper's old club the Reds on Friday.
'My feeling is F... off'
The Brumbies have lashed out at criticism of their style of play, saying that as long as they're winning they don't care how they achieve it.
Some commentators have bemoaned the Australian team's use of the rolling maul to score tries, rather than the expansive play they were once known for, but coach Dan McKellar is having none of it.
"Last time I checked, they were all worth five points," he said of his side's tries, with 10 scored by forward Folau Faingaa so far.
Assistant coach Laurie Fisher was more forthright on Twitter.
"Part of me wants to burr up over some of the half-arsed commentary about the style of our win on Saturday but my dominant feeling is F... them," he tweeted.
The Brumbies are expected to use the same tactics at home to Japan's Sunwolves on Sunday.
Highlanders end for Smith?
All Black fullback Ben Smith may have played his last game for Highlanders after picking up a hamstring strain that will sideline him for up to two months.
Smith, who is bound for French club Pau next season, was injured in the draw with Waikato Chiefs last week and may not return for the Highlanders if the team do not make the playoffs.
"He's had a high hamstring strain so he's going to be out for six to eight weeks," assistant coach Glenn Delaney said.
"Just a classic rugby incident where he got caught in a tackle and overextended."
The recovery timetable should see the 76-Test All Black back in time for the World Cup.
Du Preez stamps on cockroach comments
Emboldened by good Australasia tour results, Sharks coach Robert du Preez has slammed critics who have accused him of "nepotism" and are demanding he be fired.
"I will not be budged by cockroach comments from supporters on social media and ill-informed journalism," said the former South Africa scrumhalf.
Despite defeating the Waratahs and drawing with the table-topping Crusaders, criticism of the coach continues, largely around the use of his son Robert jnr at flyhalf.
Senior Durban writer Mike Greenaway was furious at the introduction of Robert jnr in the second half against the Crusaders with the "immaculate" Curwin Bosch switched to fullback.
Lions coaches return
The struggling Lions welcome back head coach Swys de Bruin and defence coach Joey Mongalo for a home match against the Waratahs, who are having an equally poor season.
Both coaches returned early from a disappointing tour of Australasia - De Bruin because of a stress-related illness and Mongalo over an indecent assault court case.
"My players know what I am going through and I have their full support," said De Bruin as he tries to lift the 2016, 2017 and 2018 runners-up off the bottom of the South African section.
Lions officials are backing Mongalo, who is appealing a Sydney court's decision to find him guilty of indecent assault against a hotel employee after a match against the Waratahs last season.