Fourie du Preez (Gallo)
Cape Town – Did South Africa excessively empower veteran scrumhalf Fourie du Preez from a strategic point of view during the World Cup?
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SuperSport pundit and former All Blacks and Golden Lions coach John Mitchell suspects so.
Much was made ahead of RWC 2015 about the great lengths Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer went to in persuading 2007 winner and old Bulls ally Du Preez to make himself available, despite fitness and game-time obstacles.
He then kept stressing during the tournament what a “genius” Du Preez was and how important he was to the team tactically; the 33-year-old also took over as captain when both Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield were sidelined by injuries.
But Mitchell has a slightly different take on things, as he explained on Boots & All on Thursday: “I think in many ways Heyneke and the coaching group tactically overplayed the abilities of Fourie du Preez.
“(He) is a wonderful footballer and has been for a long time. But he over-kicks and also turns some fast ball into slow ball.
“As good a passer as he is, he was always looking for an option, whether to kick or to hit a forward off nine ... and that’s before the ball gets to (Handre) Pollard at No 10.
“Too much has been centred around his decision-making.”
Du Preez has been sidelined for the Boks’ closing fixture on Friday for “bronze” against Argentina at the Olympic Stadium (22:00 SA time) after his facial injury in the semi-final loss to New Zealand, with another stalwart in Ruan Pienaar starting in his place and the younger Rudy Paige being restricted to the bench.
The Japan-based scrumhalf is widely expected to announce his international retirement very shortly.
Mitchell did give the Boks some motivational ammunition for the clash which many regard as a near-needless afterthought: “Third place is still admirable in this tournament – it’s not an easy event to win.
“But the success rate of the Boks is at about 50 percent at the moment. That’s not good enough for (them). An 80-85 percent rate is where South Africa have to start targeting again.
“The only way you are going to do that is by producing a style of football that will provide three or four tries a game and still have the ability to defend, but you have to develop during a four-year period.
“For my mind there’s an acceptance of mediocrity.”
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