Bekker's time to step up
Cape Town - The Springbok team for the match against Argentina has yet to be announced, but should he find himself in the No 5 jersey, Andries Bekker will be under some pressure to confirm his reputation as one of the world’s best locks, reports supersport.com
Although he made his debut for the Boks in 2008 and was a constant member of the various squads that Peter de Villiers selected early in his tenure, the more than two metre tall Bekker has continued to live in the shadow of the legendary Victor Matfield.
Of course, the injuries that kept Bekker from playing international rugby in 2010 and 2011 did not help his development as an international player, and in both of those seasons he did push the Bulls captain at Super Rugby level.
Back pain has prevented Bekker from quite scaling the heights he may have wanted to in this first year after Matfield’s retirement, but he did show signs after his enforced rest towards the end of the recent Super Rugby season of a return to the form that made him the Super Rugby player of the year in 2011.
One person who is eager to see Bekker make the contribution at international level that his talent demands is a man who has been plotting against him for the past few seasons at the Bulls, new Bok forwards coach Johan van Graan.
“Andries showed potential in 2010 and 2011 to become one of the greatest locks of all time,” said Van Graan.
“I haven’t worked with him, but I have always been extremely impressed with what he can do and he was always a big danger man whenever we played against him for the Bulls. Juandré Kruger deserves credit for the way he ran the lineouts in his first few Test matches.
"Andries brings experience and stability. So we are well served at lock and either of those two guys will do a good job if called upon to lead the lineout in The Rugby Championship”.
The smart money is on Bekker to get the nod, and if he does, Van Graan believes it is time for him to step up and underline why he has such a big reputation and end the perception that at times he has been short of his best in really big games.
“Victor (Matfield) was a once in a lifetime player, but I thought the Orlando Stadium Super 14 final between the Bulls and the Stormers pitted the best lineout jumpers in the world against each other. Andries was outstanding then, but he has had some injuries since. Now he gets his opportunity and it’s time for him to make his mark.”
Although used mainly off the bench, Bekker has impressed for the Boks in the past, and was part of the Bok team that smashed Australia 53-8 in the final Tri-Nations match of 2008, featuring strongly with his athleticism and ball skills in the creation of several of the tries.
Bekker was at No 4 lock that day, a position he might well have filled alongside Matfield in the 2011 World Cup had he been fit.
That the Bok management was considering playing him alongside Bekker when they were essentially the same sort of player underlines the Stormers player’s ability.