Gavin Rich - Supersport
Edinburgh - For Springbok tighthead Jannie du Plessis, one of the tricks of developing into a solid and unified scrumming unit is the willingness to keep the feet firmly grounded and not get ahead of yourself.
The Sharks player only made sporadic appearances for the Boks immediately after his first selection to the national team in 2007. But he is now seen as a regular and on Saturday he will be playing his sixth consecutive match in the No3 jersey since coming back from the injury that forced him home early from the overseas leg of the Tri-Nations.
“It is nice to start playing week after week, every player wants to get to that situation, and being with my Sharks colleagues Beast (Mtwarira) and Bismarck (du Plessis) has been a great help as we have a good understanding,” says Du Plessis.
“However the one thing you have to avoid as a prop is to go into a comfort zone. That is why I enjoy the fact that I am asked to do interviews with the media every week. Every week when I am asked to talk I think to myself ‘here it comes again’, but when you talk it puts you on your toes and makes you focus.
“The thing about scrumming is that if you take your mind off it just for a moment you can end up getting a hiding from your opponents.”
A hiding is what the Boks got from the Scots in the scrums on their last visit here to Edinburgh in 2008, and Du Plessis has a high enough regard for the individual players in their scrum unit to tread warily into Saturday’s game.
“We have worked really hard this week because we know we are up against a really good scrum. Alan Jacobsen, who I will scrum against, is a good loosehead, so hopefully I will be up for that individual challenge. The other two players in the Scotland front-row are also quite formidable players.
“Euan Murray would have played for the British and Irish Lions in the second test against us in last year’s series head he not been injured against the Eastern Province Kings. He is rated extremely highly in Europe, and for good reason. And Ross Ford was also a Lion, and those two have played together for a long time.
“Although they lost the game heavily on the scoreboard, I thought their forwards did well against the All Blacks in the set-pieces, so there is no question of us underestimating them. We know we are going to have to play well, and we are looking forward to that challenge.”
Like the rest of the Bok team, Du Plessis is not reading too much into the most recent Scotland match in looking ahead to Murrayfield.
“They had a five month break before they played the All Blacks, but before that they beat Argentina in Argentina, which is not easy to do, and Wales. So they are a competitive team.”
The match is being seen by many as a last stepping stone before the Boks can focus on the Grand Slam, which will be their prize if they beat Scotland on Saturday and then England the following week. However Du Plessis was determined to follow the line of his captain, Victor Matfield, who time and again has stressed on this tour that it is one step at a time.
“When we came over here we were playing a respectable team in Ireland in our first match and all we focused on was beating them,” said Du Plessis.
“Then we played Wales, and it was the same story. We knew it would be tough. We never looked beyond that game, and it worked out for us. Now we are doing the same about Scotland. We will worry about England next week, our first priority is to win this match. Last time we were here we nearly lost, it was a matter of Nathan Hines being held up just short of what would have been a winning try.”