Andries Bekker (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Springbok lock Andries Bekker is confident that South Africa’s youthful forwards can mature into one of the best packs in world rugby.
With only 162 caps between the forwards, they have already shown signs of maturity after their stellar performance against a settled New Zealand pack in Dunedin three weeks ago.
“We made a big step up after Dunedin and we had a good week in training last week and this week as well,” Bekker said ahead of their clash against the tourists in Nasrec this weekend.
“It is nice to go into a game on Saturday against the All Blacks with confidence."
With 28 Test caps behind his name, Bekker is one of the senior players among the forwards, but he has had a hard time moving out of retired lock Victor Matfield’s imposing shadow.
While Bekker had been groomed as Matfield’s understudy, he made a shaky start in his first two appearances under new Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
He soon realised that he did not have a free pass into the Bok starting XV after a lacklustre performance in South Africa’s 16-16 draw against Argentina in Mendoza in August.
Bekker admitted that performance was not good enough, which saw him being dropped for the next Test against Australia in Perth.
“I know I wasn't up to standard and mentally I needed to make that switch and hopefully it came up,” he said.
“Personally I know I was shocking and I think it is good if you know when you were bad and you need to make the step up.”
Bekker made it count when Meyer showed faith in him in the Springboks’ 31-8 victory over Australia in Pretoria last weekend, making 19 tackles, while he was also faultless with his lineout throw-ins.
Bekker, however, said this week would be a different challenge against the All Blacks.
“You need to pitch up with physicality against the All Blacks," he said.
"If you don’t pitch they’re going to give you 50 or 60 points.
“I’ve been here for six years and every time you play the All Blacks you need to make that extra step up.”
The 28-year-old has struggled with injuries over the last two years and he hoped to remain injury free and regain his best form.
While he has been compared to Matfield, Bekker believed it would be difficult to move out of his predecessor’s shadow.
“I just need to get back into top form after my back op last year, and after my ankle op this year, I’ve been struggling,” he said.
“If the people see me as better than Victor, that happens, but I don’t think that’s going to happen because he was the best in the world for the last eight years.”