Cape Town – New
Springbok No 8 Dan du Preez possibly encounters the “problem” Australian
cricketer Mark Waugh had … being prone to potential chirps that he isn’t even
the best player in his own family.
The fluent stroke-player
had to deal, of course, with the fact that his twin brother Steve captained the
Baggy Greens and also boasted a considerably better Test average at the crease.
no less close in several senses in the remarkable, rugby-swollen Du Preez
family, with Dan’s own twin sibling Jean-Luc a fellow loose forward and already
holder of 10 Test caps, although he is currently injured and missed the Bok
tour of Europe.
Robert a Bok scrumhalf and Robert jnr fast headed toward international
recognition himself – at flyhalf - competition for bragging rights around the
dinner table must be unusually fierce.
already capped as a substitute, 22-year-old Dan earns a maiden start against
Wales in Cardiff on Saturday and the gulf in experience terms between the
rookie and his opposite number, Toby Faletau, could barely be more apparent.
Faletau, who got clearance from Bath to play this out-of-window Test, will earn
his 74th Welsh appearance on Saturday, and eighth against the Boks
over a generous six-year period from 2011 (presence in two wins, five losses
no-nonsense customer is at the fulcrum of much of what Wales do on both attack
and defence, and it is a remarkable thought that he is still only a very
recently-turned 27, making him roughly at the prime of his rugby life.
If Du Preez
wanted a rigorous examination of his mettle, this is it.
favourite will not be overawed physically, considering that that is a natural
attribute in his own game, but it will also help his cause enormously if the
Bok pack collectively gets on the front foot and he can involve himself in some
forceful carries, a forte of his.
He will also
realise the need to grab this No 8 opportunity with both hands, considering
that when Test combat resumes for the Boks in 2018, more established personnel
Duane Vermeulen and Warren Whiteley should be right back in the selection mix.
to keep an especially keen eye on:
Steven Kitshoff v Scott Andrews
being made of the fact that Wales are fielding perhaps their fourth or fifth-best
tighthead prop, as Andrews makes a return from a four-year international
wilderness. Although no midget at around 120kg, it is expected that
up-and-coming young Bok loosehead Kitshoff (same weight) will turn up plenty of
scrum-time heat on him. Nevertheless, set-piece battles aren’t won on paper and
Kitshoff will know that only the right mental approach on the day will aid the
quest for supremacy – motivation shouldn’t be a problem as this is just his
second chance to start after 21 appearances behind Tendai Mtawarira as a sub.
Lood de Jager v Alun Wyn Jones
rather more experienced Test player, of course, but in some respects De Jager
will have an acid examination of the kind imminently facing young Du Preez: his
direct rival is one of the gnarliest No 5s on the international circuit in
pockmarked Welsh leader Wyn Jones. The 32-year-old will be playing his 122nd
Test match, including appearances in three British and Irish Lions series, so
the SA stringbean being able to somehow dominate him would be a fine feather in
his cap. Remember that next year, when more loose forwards are fit and
available again, De Jager may have versatile Pieter-Steph du Toit back
challenging rather more specifically for that “five” shirt …
Francois Venter v Hadleigh Parkes
against relatively humdrum French and then Italian sides, Venter has looked the
part at inside centre for the Boks, bringing a calming influence, high
work-rate and strategic direction to an oft-maligned back division. But he is
another well aware of returning candidates in 2018 – like Jan Serfontein, who
sat out this tour. Albeit a debutant at Test level this weekend, don’t expect
Kiwi-born Parkes to be too gripped by butterflies: he is a strapping,
30-year-old journeyman with tons of Super Rugby experience (two NZ franchises,
plus a campaign with the Kings in SA in 2013). Still, Venter should be in
strong psychological fettle entering this tussle, and also aware that he can be
used as a No 13 for his country again, further up the line.
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