Fourie du Preez is the right man to lead the Springboks in the World Cup play-offs, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Victor Matfield is set to play against Wales in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday. There should be no quibble about his inclusion in the starting side.
There should be no question about in his role in the team. The Boks need Matfield to front the Welsh, but as a lieutenant to Du Preez and not as the team's captain.
South Africa have gathered momentum over the past three matches. Du Preez has steered the side in the right tactical direction. His cool temperament has come to the fore when the Boks have been under pressure.
Make no mistake, the Boks haven’t had everything their own way. They were under pressure at times against a second-string Scotland and then against a weakened USA side. They should know that a massive improvement is needed ahead of the play-offs.
Lood de Jager has been one of the Boks’ standout performers over the past four matches. As a ball-carrier and defender, he’s been right up there with the best forwards in the tournament.
De Jager deserves to feature in the match-day squad this weekend, and in a possible semi-final and final. With De Jager in the 23, the Boks’ chances of winning the quarter-final and indeed the tournament are increased.
But in what capacity? This is the question Meyer will be asking himself in the lead-up to a showdown with Wales.
There is no need to hand Matfield the captaincy at this stage. Du Preez has the position covered. There is a need, however, to reinstate Matfield at the centre of the lineout.
Wales battled at the scrum in last week’s match against Australia. The Wales lineout, however, was more successful. Wales and British & Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones put the Wallabies lineout under pressure.
The Boks need a No 5 who can counter Jones at this set piece in the quarter-final on Saturday. As the record will reflect, Matfield has won many a personal duel with Jones in the past.
On Sunday, Matfield was asked to comment on De Jager and Eben Etzebeth’s recent run of form. Matfield has mentored the two young locks over the past two years. Matfield and forwards coach Johann van Graan have aided De Jager’s development as a lineout caller and manager.
Matfield said he rated De Jager highly as a ball-carrier. He marvelled at De Jager’s improvement at the set piece. At the same time, the veteran lock made it clear that he wanted to make his own mark at this World Cup.
Meyer should give Matfield the chance to prove a point this Saturday. He should allow Matfield to concentrate on the task of managing the lineout and the forward pack as a whole. Du Preez should continue as the overall leader and as the man tasked with making the big tactical calls.
This is not the first time that Meyer has stumbled upon the right answer to a leadership quandary. In 2012, he was looking at Matfield and Du Preez as his captaincy options. Schalk Burger was viewed as another alternative.
Meyer only took a chance on Jean de Villiers when it was clear that Matfield, Du Preez and Burger were not available for the Boks. It was the best thing that could have happened. De Villiers proved an excellent leader in the three-year period between 2012 and 2014.
Similarly, through a twist of fate that’s seen De Villiers crocked and Matfield sidelined, Du Preez has been elevated to the position of responsibility at this World Cup. Meyer would do well to stick with Du Preez for the remainder of this campaign.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images