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Jon Cardinelli

Mossie magic to raise Bok bar


Jaque Fourie is set to start at No 13 for the Springboks against Wales Jaque Fourie is set to start at No 13 for the Springboks against Wales

Jaque Fourie's return to the starting line-up will shore up the Springboks' defence, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.

On Monday, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer made it clear that the team is not the finished article. The Boks have won seven of their nine Tests in 2013, those two losses coming to the All Blacks.

DEFENSIVE WEAKNESS

It was in those two matches where the Boks' weaknesses were exposed. Meyer has highlighted the defence as an area that requires a dramatic improvement, and that they need to address the problem with some urgency.

The new players brought into the squad this season have certainly forced the rest of the group to push the attacking envelope. Willie le Roux and JJ Englebrecht have made an individual impact, and have also combined with the more established members of the side to produce some spectacular tries.

However, Le Roux and Engelbrecht have been less consistent on defence. It could be put down to a lack of experience, but both men have battled. Engelbrecht in particular is susceptible in the No 13 channel, a channel regarded as the most important on defence.

WORLD-CLASS ADDITION

By contrast, 'Mossie' Fourie is widely acknowledged as the best defensive centre in the world. He is also capable of playing brilliant attacking rugby and was one of the few players who found the tryline regularly when he was with the Stormers in 2010 and 2011.

His return to the Bok group should be hailed as significant. It is likely that he will be pushed into the starting line-up at the earliest opportunity, linking up with his old midfield partner Jean de Villiers.

As an individual, Fourie will make the difference in the No 13 channel, and as a combination Fourie and De Villiers will raise the defensive bar.

On Tuesday, Bok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher noted the impact made by Fourie since his return to the squad. The experience of Fourie du Preez was harnessed in the Rugby Championship, both in a playing and mentoring capacity. According to Loubscher, the return of Fourie and JP Pietersen is having the same effect.

'Jaque possesses very strong leadership qualities, and we've already witnessed that in Monday's training session,' he said. 'He's a key guy in terms of organising both the attack and defence. He adds tremendous value to the group.'

The Boks need to improve their defence this November, and they also need to adjust their attack to suit the northern hemisphere conditions. This week, they will face the additional challenge of a Welsh rush defence.

'You're always looking to play the game in the right areas, but that's even more important considering the weather. Wales will also bring something very different on defence to what was experienced in the Rugby Championship. We've been preparing for that in training, because we know they're going to get off the defensive line very quickly.'

Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

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