Fourie du Preez brings his magic in first minutes back

2013-08-19 00:00

HE played for just 25 minutes, and by the time he arrived, the Pumas had already run up the white flag.

But it was veteran scrumhalf Fourie du Preez who played the most significant role in the Springboks’ lop-sided 73-13 win at Soccer City on Saturday night.

It was the 31-year-old Du Preez’s first outing for the Boks since 2011, and he has been out of rugby for four months, but the former Bulls scrumhalf slipped seamlessly back into team and showed that he had lost none of his magical touch.

Du Preez, coming off the bench to replace Ruan Pienaar for the closing quarter, did nothing spectacular, but his presence and deft touches lifted the tempo of the Springboks. His swift, accurate service, his speed to the breakdown, and uncanny ability to read the game and choose whether to off-load to a back or forward, rubbed off on his team-mates, and they ran in five of their nine tries while he was on the field.

Pienaar, another skilful player, did little wrong, but he simply could not match the slickness, variety and precision of Du Preez’s service.

It was an excellent day for the Boks after an awful opening quarter when they lacked structure, rhythm and intensity. The Pumas, disrupted by injury, two yellow cards and poor discipline, started strongly, but went rapidly downhill after half an hour — when they conceded a penalty try — and the 53 000 crowd were treated to a feast of tries.

The young Argentine scrum never posed the expected threat, they were exposed at the line-out, and they were outmuscled and dominated by the Springbok pack.

The Springbok players all did their bit, but hooker Adriaan Strauss, with the competitive Bismarck du Plessis on the bench and breathing down his neck, was in formidable form and was named man-of the match.

Du Plessis, in turn, must be wondering when his day will finally come. Considered the best hooker in world rugby, Du Plessis first had his way blocked by John Smit, then he was sidelined by major knee surgery and now he has somehow to dislodge the flourishing Strauss.

The 26-man Springbok squad left for Argentina early yesterday, and Griquas tighthead Lourens Adriaanse, who is expected to join the Sharks after the Currie Cup season, and scrumhalf Piet van Zyl have joined them.

Van Zyl has replaced Fourie du Preez, who is not available for the overseas legs of the Rugby Championship for contractural reasons. Adriaanse takes over from Free Stater Trevor Nyakane, who has been dropped from the squad following repeated breaches of team protocol. The dropping of Nyakane was not because of any major scandal, the Springbok camp said.

The tweet from the official Bok rugby account yesterday read: “No great scandal folks. Breach of protocol in Trevor’s case means missing flights, video session and the trip to ORT (Oliver Tambo Airport) this morning.”

Chiliboy Ralepelle, who injured his back during a gym session on Saturday morning, was ruled out of the tour.

Also added to Saturday’s match squad are Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak.

It was also the best of days for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer who delivered on his promise that his team would be more attacking in their approach.

He had also gambled on the form and fitness of the Japan-based Fourie du Preez, because he wanted to see whether the veteran still had a role to play in Springbok rugby. Well, now we know.

The 26-man Springbok squad to Argentina

Forwards (15): Lourens Adriaanse, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Juandré Kruger, Francois Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen. Backs (11): Bjorn Basson, Jean de Villiers (captain), J.J. Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Ruan Pienaar, Jan Serfontein, Morné Steyn, Piet van Zyl, Jano Vermaak.

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