Springboks

Boks: Taxing first start for Big Dan

2017-12-01 20:04
Dan du Preez (Gallo)

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.

Rivalry is 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.

With father 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.

Although 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.

Tongan-born 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 thus far).

The 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.

The Sharks 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.

Other duels to keep an especially keen eye on:

Steven Kitshoff v Scott Andrews

Much is 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

He’s a 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

Admittedly 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.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  dan du preez  |  rugby
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