Heyneke Meyer is adamant that the reintroduction of Fourie du Preez will boost the Springboks to new heights, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cape Town.
On Wednesday, Du Preez was named to start in what is a crucial match in the context of the Castle Rugby Championship. A big win this Saturday will ensure that the Boks head into the final clash against the All Blacks with a chance of winning the competition.
The fixture at Newlands will also mark Du Preez's first start in nearly two years, and the significance of his return to the international frontline hasn't been lost on his coaches and team-mates.
Meyer once again highlighted Du Preez's importance at the team announcement on Wednesday. He praised the recent contributions of Ruan Pienaar, who has started six of the Boks' seven Tests in 2013, but admitted that Du Preez is a player of rare ability, and is operating at a different level of competence.
'I've been clear from the start that Ruan would play the three games overseas, and that Fourie would start the two games at home [against the Wallabies and All Blacks],' said the Bok coach. 'Ruan has been playing some great rugby lately and his experience is a big plus going forward, but Fourie is just in a class of his own.
'I've noticed the difference in training this week,' Meyer continued. 'Having Fourie around is like having an extra coach on the field. He has fantastic organisational skills, and has taken a lot of pressure off Jean [de Villiers, the Bok captain] in terms of organising the attack, defence, and kicking game.
'He's a great leader but also a great player, and I've noticed that the speed in his game has improved since he's been playing club rugby in Japan [Du Preez joined Suntory Sungoliath after the 2011 World Cup]. I really believe that he can take us to the next level.'
Du Preez will resume a long-standing partnership with Morné Steyn against the Wallabies this Saturday. The pair enjoyed much success as a halfback combination for the Bulls and Springboks, and were at the centre of some notable successes in 2009 and 2010.
Saturday's game will mark the first time the two have started in tandem since that World Cup quarter-final defeat in Wellington. It will also see Steyn making his 50th Test appearance for the Boks, and the flyhalf is clearly hoping to mark the occasion with a big win.
And having Du Preez on his inside will certainly increase the chances of that outcome.
'For sure,' Steyn stated emphatically, 'having Fourie around brings something different to the mix. The way he reads the game is phenomenal. He certainly takes some of the pressure off me.'
What will also serve the Boks' cause is the fact that the Wallabies are set to stick with Nic White at No 9. Steyn said he'd been surprised when the mercurial Will Genia was axed after the Wallabies' 38-12 defeat to the Boks three weeks ago. That Genia is still on the outer has come as a further surprise.
'He's a great player with a great kicking game, and we've had some good battles in the past,' said Steyn. 'I'm not sure what else is going on, and where his head is at presently, but I know that he is a quality player.'
The Wallabies will name their match 23 on Thursday.
Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
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