If you want to know how much things have changed in the Springbok set-up this year you just need to listen to Bismarck du Plessis talk about the line-outs.
The Springbok hooker, now out of the shadow of former captain John Smit, put the changes into perspective on Wednesday when he said “you can’t compare an apple with a pear”, referring to current coach Heyneke Meyer and former coach Peter de Villiers.
He was, of course, talking about how dramatically things have changed in the Bok team following the past eight years when Smit threw the ball into the line-outs and more often than not Victor Matfield was calling them. Smit also had Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw to aim at ... it was a settled unit and the players all knew exactly how they operated.
Now, Du Plessis (or Adriaan Strauss) is throwing the ball in and two rookie locks, Juandré Kruger and Eben Etzebeth are doing the jumping. Kruger is calling the shots and not he or Etzebeth had played with Du Plessis until last week.
“Look, absolutely everything has changed. There is not one line-out call that has remained from the previous eight years,” said Du Plessis on Wednesday. “What we’ve got here are new coaches, new players and new structures ... and new calls. All five Super Rugby teams have their own line-out calls, and in the past we’d get to the Boks and everyone would know the calls. Not anymore. Now we’re all learning from scratch again. I’ve got to get used to how Juandré calls and jumps and they have to get used to me. But that’s the beauty of the Boks, you get a chance to play with other guys.”
Du Plessis also said it would take some time for everyone to get used to Meyer. “How Peter wanted to play and how Heyneke plays ... it’s different. They’re different people, one is an apple, one is a pear; you can’t compare them.
“What helped a lot, though, were the planning camps Heyneke organised during Super Rugby. When we got together last week it was fortunately not the first time we’d met as players and management, which meant we didn’t have to start from scratch last week. In the evening now all we’re doing is learning a few new line-out calls and moves but, as they say, a change is as good as a holiday.”
Du Plessis will again lead the charge up front against England in the second Test at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday and he said on Wednesday the Boks would again look to physically dominate the tourists. “It’s a physical game; we won’t shy away from contact. It’s life and death for us. I always say rugby is like war, only with a few rules.” – The Star