Fourie du Preez (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer says scrumhalf Fourie du Preez is as important to the South African cause as Richie McCaw is to the All Blacks.
With Victor Matfield still sidelined with a hamstring injury, Du Preez will again lead the Boks when they tackle Wales in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals at Twickenham on Saturday.
Du Preez took over the Bok captaincy after Jean de Villiers fractured his jaw in the pool stage win over Samoa, and has since led the Boks to two impressive victories against Scotland and the USA.
With Matfield still struggling with injury, and Lood de Jager showing impressive form, Du Preez should remain the Bok captain if they progress further in the tournament.
Meyer, speaking at the team announcement in Bagshot outside London on Wednesday, said he was not surprised to see how well Du Preez has stepped up to lead the team.
“This year, he wasn’t sure about playing but I begged him to come back. He’s the type of guy if you have him in your team and he clicks, he’s like a Richie McCaw for the All Blacks," said Meyer.
“I’ve coached him since he was 19 and he’s one of most of astute players that that I’ve ever coached. I know our game plan will click when he’s on the ball.”
Meyer said Du Preez was uncertain coming back into the team from Japan, where he had been struggling with injuries.
“I asked him to just train with the side. Right up until we left South Africa he wasn’t sure if he would come (along) because he was really struggling with his back and struggling a little bit with his kicking game at times.
“But he’s a warrior, he just grinds through and plays. He’s been a revelation turning the team around, and as a leader as well. He really knows exactly what I want.
“He’s a genius, an unbelievable player. He’s the type of player that - if we go further in this tournament - he will just get better.”
Kick-off for Saturday’s clash at Twickenham is scheduled for 17:00 (SA time).
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.