Johannesburg – Fourie du Preez has admitted to feeling “a little sad” he is not in Buenos Aires as a member of the Springbok team this week, and that he’ll only be back in the Bok fold when they return from Australasia in five weeks time for the two remaining home games in this year’s Rugby Championship.
And why wouldn’t he be feeling a tad down? For this Springbok team, under Heyneke Meyer, are on the road to greatness and because of the way they’re playing right now, no one would want to miss out on the action.
Du Preez made his return to the Bok team for the first time since the 2011 World Cup against Argentina at FNB Stadium on Saturday and produced a sparkling performance at No9 – and that in just 25 minutes on the field. The 31-year-old spent only a week training with the Boks before Saturday’s game and in that short time he came to realise something special is happening with Springbok rugby.
“I’m a little sad I’m not going to Argentina (for the Boks’ second match in the Rugby Championship this weekend), to be part of the process, but hopefully I’ll be back in four or five weeks,” he said.
He labelled as “scary” the potential of the team that demolished Argentina 73-13 to bag five log points at the weekend. “It was scary watching the guys train in the week ... this team’s got great potential. There is definitely a mindset to be more attack-orientated. It’s a process right now and we mustn’t forget this is just Heyneke’s second year in charge. But the potential is huge, and this team can go a long way.”
Indeed, the Boks finally look like a side that can seriously challenge the All Blacks for the No1 spot in the world. It’s all very dandy to put 70 points past Argentina and score nine wonderful tries, but let’s be honest, the Boks will always be measured against New Zealand and that’s who they have to beat to be regarded a great side. But the signs are certainly there, and they will have a chance of doing that in the coming weeks.
Du Preez was one of 23 stars in a dazzling performance on Saturday. The forwards, led by Adriaan Strauss and closely followed by Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth, dominated the set-pieces and won the breakdown battle and the backs just ripped the Argentinians to pieces with stunning interplay and running lines. And as good as Du Preez was when he came on, Ruan Pienaar played his best game for the Boks, while Morné Steyn varied his game brilliantly at flyhalf and also kicked magnificently. There was nothing to fault about Meyer’s team’s performance.
“The team talk was simple: I said to the guys I want a special performance,” said Meyer. “We wanted to make Madiba (former president Nelson Mandela) and the country proud. We wanted to show the country how we can play, get the whole country behind us. It was a clinical performance considering we hadn’t played in a long time. I’m proud of what this team achieved today.”
What makes this Bok team particularly potent is the strength of its bench. Every player who entered the fray in the second spell on Saturday made a massive impact – exactly what Meyer wanted. “Our first half was a bit of an arm-wrestle because we couldn’t get quick ball. I thought we left two or three tries out there, but our bench was unbelievable. When you make changes the game can often become very loose, but the guys who came on were awesome, and we used the opportunities we created.”
Meyer praised his whole coaching team, including scrum guru Pieter de Villiers, breakdown specialist Richie Gray and forwards boss Johan van Graan. “We were superb in the scrums, at the breakdowns, our driving maul was excellent and we maintained excellent discipline. It was one of those days when everything went right, but we’ll stay humble and start from scratch again this week.”