Cape Times – Fourie du Preez is in a class of his own and can take the Springboks “to the next level” in Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against the Wallabies at Newlands.
That was the view of Bok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday after he decided to stick to his original plan of making two rotational changes at scrumhalf and hooker. Du Preez replaces Ruan Pienaar at No 9 and Adriaan Strauss reclaims the No 2 jersey from Bismarck du Plessis.
Meyer was at pains to emphasise that he “didn’t drop those two players” as he had told all four before the start of the tournament which games they would play in, and that Du Plessis’s omission was not a consequence of his sending off against the All Blacks at Eden Park. The coach stated that the Sharks hooker will be back in the starting line-up for next week’s potential decider against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, while Du Preez will continue at halfback.
Making such deals with players before a tournament starts could have two possible effects – it may make the players feel at ease, knowing they will get an opportunity, but the opposite of that may result in the better player being on the bench.
With Pienaar being quite up and down in his game this year, giving Du Preez an opportunity is a positive step as he was excellent as a second-half substitute against Argentina at the FNB Stadium and has a wealth of experience. He has a complete game too, coupling superb tactical kicking with a quick service from the rucks.
But Du Plessis was arguably the best Bok forward on the tour to Australia and New Zealand and his performances would demand that he starts. “The biggest thing between a coach and players is trust, and mostly I stick to my word. And before the competition I said to Adriaan that he was going to start this game, and I can even tell you now that Bismarck is going to start the next game,” Meyer said.
“So don’t read too much into it – it wasn’t to keep Bismarck away or take the pressure off him. Performance is always the first and most important thing. I’ve also said to the players to take it in the right way, but I’m not loyal to players, but loyal to performance. But if you sit with probably the two best hookers in the world, it’s so much easier to rotate them – and I believe the two best scrumhalves as well.
“So we don’t do it with all the players, but there are certain guys that you need to give a chance to keep them fresh, otherwise you don’t have them for the rest of the campaign until the World Cup. The great thing is that both Bismarck and Adriaan are great leaders as well and you can see the confidence I have in them because when they rotate, they are the vice-captains as well.”
Meyer believes that former Bulls scrumhalf Du Preez will add a new dimension to the Bok side in Saturday’s must-win game. “You realise in training just what a great player he is. I don’t want to take anything away from Ruan because he has also been good and is very experienced, but Fourie is in a class of his own. Another thing about Fourie is that you also have another coach on the field. He keeps the guys calm and organises the defence and the attack, and the kicking game for that matter,” he said.
“It also helps to take a lot of pressure off Jean (de Villiers), who is a quality leader and quality man. Fourie’s organisational skills are brilliant and he is a great player. He is a very dangerous player, not just with his kicking game, but he finds the right players in the right spaces and puts them through the spaces.
“Since he’s been playing in Japan, which is a much quicker game, the speed of his pass and the speed of his delivery has really improved.
“So I really believe that he will take us to the next level. But he still has to go out there and prove it on Saturday.”
Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Patrick Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Australia: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Christian Leali'ifano, 11-Joe Tomane, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Nic White, 8-Ben Mowen, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Scott Fardy, 5-James Horwill (captain), 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-James Slipper. Replacements: 16-Saia Fainga'a, 17-Benn Robinson, 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Sitaleki Timani, 20-Ben McCalman, 21-Will Genia, 22-Matt Toomua, 23-Chris Feauai-Sautia
Fixtures (SA times)
Newlands, 5pm: South Africa v Australia
La Plata, 12:40am: Argentina v New Zealand
Ellis Park, 5pm: South Africa v New Zealand
Rosario, 12.40am: Argentina v Australia
P W D L BP P
NZ 4 4 0 0 2 18
SA 4 3 0 1 2 14
Australia 4 1 0 3 0 4
Argentina 4 0 0 4 2 2