Pieter de Villiers says Bok prop Jannie du Plessis proved his critics wrong with a powerful all-round performance in Brisbane, reports JON CARDINELLI, in Johannesburg.
In the buildup to the international season, some asserted that Du Plessis no longer deserved his place in the Boks’ starting side. There were calls for two younger tightheads, namely the Stormers’ Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch to leapfrog the veteran and become regular features of the match-day squad.
Heyneke Meyer had other ideas. Despite a public outcry, the Bok coach backed Du Plessis to start in the first two matches of the season. Du Plessis repaid Meyer’s faith with an industrious performance against the World XV in Cape Town, and an even stronger all-round showing against the Wallabies in Brisbane.
On Monday, De Villiers, the Bok scrum coach, said he was pleased to see Du Plessis back in form. It bodes well for a World Cup staged in northern hemisphere conditions. The Boks will certainly need an experienced tighthead in tow if they hope to dominate the set pieces.
‘We are aware that there was some pressure on him [from external sources] before the game,’ said De Villiers. ‘I’m just happy that Heyneke stuck with him, and that he performed the way he did. It was a great response. His work-rate was excellent in the first match, and his scrummaging was very good against the Wallabies.’
For 50 minutes, the Bok scrum hammered that of the Wallabies. However, when Du Plessis, his brother Bismarck, and Beast Mtawrarira were taken off, the Boks lost momentum at this set piece.
Meyer has copped plenty of criticism for his substitutions in that fixture. The Boks were leading 20-7 at that point of the game. Following the substitutions, they relinquished their 13-point lead and eventually lost 24-20.
De Villiers defended Meyer’s decisions. He said the Boks have to give other players game time in the buildup to the World Cup.
‘Australia changed their setup at the scrum in the second half, and we battled to adjust. That said, I believe we will be better when we face the All Blacks this week,’ said De Villiers.
‘I thought it was important that a player like Frans Malherbe got some game time last week. Heinke van der Merwe also hasn’t played for the Boks in a long time [since 2012], so he needed a chance. We have to look at giving players who may be involved in the World Cup some game time.
‘We have a lot of respect for the All Blacks scrum,’ De Villiers said of the coming clash at Ellis Park. ‘But we can’t get too hung up on what they are doing. We must look at our own process. I’m proud of the way we scrummed as a unit last week, but we will looking to make a few improvements.'
Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images