Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has heaped praise on new captain Fourie du Preez as they prepare for a Rugby World Cup clash against Scotland on Saturday.
The 33-year-old scrumhalf was on Wednesday named as the 56th Springbok captain, taking over from Jean de Villiers, who was forced out of the tournament after suffering a jaw fracture against Samoa last weekend.
With lock Victor Matfield sidelined with a hamstring niggle, Du Preez may not remain captain for the entire tournament, but Meyer is confident that the soft-spoken former Blue Bulls ace will do a good job.
“It’s not easy to lose Jean and Victor, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in Fourie,” Meyer said at a press conference in Newcastle on Wednesday.
“I’ve coached him since he was 19 years old and even back in the day I was astonished about his rugby knowledge. I always believed then he will be a rugby genius and he is a rugby genius.
“He is respected worldwide because of his knowledge about the game and if you look at the history of South Africa, wherever Fourie has played - even when he left for Japan - those teams always won. When Fourie played well, the team won. He’s a tactical genius.”
Du Preez is not your stereotypical Springbok captain. He is introverted and soft spoken, but has the respect of his team-mates.
“Fourie is not a guy with a lot of words, not like me, but he’s a true warrior and that’s what we’re going to need... the players respect him,” said Meyer.
“When he’s on the field he’s a natural leader and it comes naturally to him.”
Flank Schalk Burger will be the vice-captain and will also have an important role to play, Meyer insisted.
“The great thing is that Fourie and Schalk are also great friends. I had meetings with the senior players, with Schalk and Duane (Vermeulen), and they’re going to help him (Du Preez). Schalk is also a great captain...”
Saturday’s clash at St James’ Park - the home of English football side Newcastle United - is scheduled for 17:45 (SA time).
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger (vice-captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 David Denton, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Substitutes: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Lamont