Springbok scrum-half Fourie du Preez could be the catalyst for victory in Saturday's Test against the Wallabies in Cape Town.
Veteran Springbok scrum-half Fourie du Preez could be the catalyst for victory in Saturday's Test against the Wallabies in Cape Town.
South Africa must win to have a realistic chance of bridging a four-point gap behind leaders New Zealand and topping the final standings.
And Bok coach Heyneke Meyer believes Japan-based Du Preez can play a key role in his first green-and-gold start since the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
Many pundits believed the then 30-year-old was past his prime after quitting the Bulls last year for a Suntory Sungoliath outfit coached by Australian Eddie Jones.
But Meyer begs to differ, and feels Du Preez could be his first-choice number nine come the 2015 World Cup in England.
“Watching Fourie train this week you realise what a great player he is,” said Meyer.
“Without taking anything away from Ruan Pienaar, who has also been good and is very experienced, Fourie is in a class of his own.
“The main thing about him is that we have an extra coach on the field. He is calm, organises the defence, the attack, and the kicking game.
“His presence takes pressure off (skipper) Jean de Villiers.
“Fourie has the ability to find players in space, or put them into space. He is a magnificent player with great organisational skills.”
Fly-half and star goal-kicker Morne Steyn is thrilled at renewing a half-back partnership that laid the foundations for many Springboks victories.
“Fourie brings something extra that no other scrum-half can. The way he reads and controls the game makes such a difference to the fly-half,” said Steyn.
“He takes a lot of pressure off me,” added the leading points scorer with 68 in the 2013 southern hemisphere championship.
Du Preez for Pienaar is one of two starting-team changes made by Meyer after a controversial 29-15 away loss to greatest rivals New Zealand this month.
Hooker Bismarck du Plessis was unfairly sin-binned in the first half and when he got a justifiable second yellow card soon after half-time, was sent off.
The Springboks host the All Blacks next weekend, but the match will lose considerable appeal if South Africa lose in Cape Town and New Zealand win in Argentina.
Du Plessis drops to the bench for Newlands with Adriaan Strauss starting, although Meyer stressed that the decision was part of a rotation plan.
Strauss expects the Wallabies, who suffered four straight Test losses before edging Argentina two weeks ago, will be much tougher to beat than in Brisbane.
“That defeat would have stung them and they will be supremely motivated. They will be looking to up their game, especially the forwards.
“But we are also positive and have been working hard on our scrumming – an area that has gone well for us this season.”