Jasper Wiese has attributed his Man of the Match performance against Argentina on Saturday to the support, guidance and influence of his Springbok teammates, including fellow No 8 Duane Vermeulen.
Following their series win over the British & Irish Lions, South Africa rested a host of first-choice players for their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina, and yet still managed to hammer the visitors 32-12 in Port Elizabeth.
Playing in just his fourth Test in the injury-enforced absence of Vermeulen, Wiese produced a stellar performance from the back of the scrum and was deservedly named Man of the Match for his efforts.
Speaking after the game, Wiese admitted that while he had to step into big boots in the absence of Vermeulen – who will return to the field once he has made a full recovery from the ankle surgery that sidelined him for the opening stretch of the season – the veteran loose forward has been influential in mentoring the wider Bok squad in the last few weeks.
“No one can replace Duane,” said Wiese. “He has a presence about him and ever since he joined the camp he has been actively talking to the guys and guiding everyone at training.
“It is big boots to fill, and I don’t know if I will, and I know that he will be massive when he comes back. So, I don’t think anyone can fill his boots, I can only try my best.”
Wiese also talked about the special culture of the team, and said his experience since joining the squad has been phenomenal.
“The first thing for me is that you have to put the team first and then as an individual to know your role and to do everything to the best of your ability for the team,” he explained. “At the Springboks you are playing for something much bigger than yourself.”
“It’s been amazing for me to experience how unbelievable the guys are, how positive they are around one another, and how we get each other ready for big days. I’ve learned to put myself behind the team and to give everything for them.”
Elton Jantjies, who started at flyhalf and was also in fine form – slotting five penalties and a conversion to keep the scoreboard ticking over – agreed with Wiese’s sentiments and lauded the team’s collective effort against the Pumas.
“It was massive for us to get the result and a bonus point in the first match,” said Jantjies.
“Argentina are a well-coached team, and they play with a lot of emotion. We knew what their plan was, and they tried to implement it throughout the match, but we did well to implement our plan and to get the result as well.”
He added: “It was also good to see a few guys get a chance to play, and players like Joseph (Dweba, hooker) and Jaden (Hendrikse, scrumhalf) making their debuts.
“This is a special team when it comes to preparation for a match, whether one plays or doesn’t. Everyone works together as a team.”
Jantjies said another notable trait about the squad was the ability to switch on mentally for big occasions – as they did this week after their triumphant series against the Lions.
“It was a privilege to win such a big series against the British & Irish Lions and then to have a chance to play in the Rugby Championship,” said Jantjies.
“We celebrated (winning against the Lions) last week Saturday, and from Sunday it was about recovery and preparing for this match.
“The preparation this week was great, and it showed the in standards set that everyone was switched on.”