Captain Warren Whiteley feels that Test rookie Jean-Luc du Preez, as well as the Springbok back row as a unit, could go on to great things. JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg reports.
Siya Kolisi was the standout player for the Boks in the second Test against France at Kings Park last Saturday. That said, the back row as a combination appeared to thrive when Du Preez replaced the injured Oupa Mohoje early in the first half.
Du Preez made a massive impact at the breakdown and collisions. Afterwards, Kolisi himself admitted that he and the other players were in awe of the 21-year-old's ability and attitude.
‘You never have to say anything to that guy to get him motivated,’ said Kolisi with a chuckle. Indeed, youngsters like Du Preez and hooker Malcolm Marx appear to have an insatiable appetite for a battle in the trenches.
Whiteley is another who has also been impressed by Du Preez’s performances in the last two Tests. The Sharks flanker was a late addition to the squad after Duane Vermeulen was sidelined on the eve of the series. Du Preez came off the bench in Pretoria and Durban, but will start for the first time in Johannesburg this Saturday.
‘Jean-Luc has the potential to be the best in the world. He probably doesn’t even know how good he is,’ the Bok captain said on Friday.
‘Siya has been playing unbelievable rugby for his franchise and the Boks this season. It really is a privilege to play alongside those two guys. I know they will always have my back.
‘It’s also great to have guys like Oupa and Jaco Kriel in the mix. There’s a lot of competition between the loose forwards at the moment. There's some good banter and we are a tight group.’
The Boks will have the chance to secure a 3-0 series victory this Saturday. Whiteley said that the team aren't approaching the Test at Ellis Park with the aim of completing a whitewash. The Bok captain did, however, stress the need for an improved performance ahead of the Rugby Championship.
‘France are a proud team, and I’m sure they will be looking to finish their season on a high,’ Whiteley said. ‘We had to work hard for the last two wins and this week should be no different.
‘We haven’t spoken about a whitewash at all. We’re also not about sending statements to anybody. We know what we want to achieve, and we know that we still have a lot to improve on.
‘We’re chasing perfection,’ he added. ‘We feel we’re headed in the right direction, although we know that there will be a lot of challenges to come this season.
‘What’s good to know is that we have laid a foundation and have built a strong team culture. We had another meeting with professor Pieter Kruger last night [who was involved in the culture-building camp in Plettenberg Bay three weeks ago]. Some good things have been put in place, but there are certain things you have to hammer on week in and week out.’
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