Robbie Kempson believes Jannie du Plessis will withstand an early onslaught and emerge victorious from what promises to be a testing debut.
Du Plessis was awarded his first Springbok cap after Cobus Visagie was forced to withdraw with an elbow injury. The Cheetahs prop was in solid form in the Super 14 and has long been regarded as a potential No 3 for the Springboks. He now gets his opportunity in a crucial Test against Australia, and Kempson predicts he’ll cope just fine.
“I definitely think he needs a bit of maturity as a tighthead and he’s not at the level of BJ Botha yet. But that said he’s an awesome player, and being a doctor, an intelligent one too,” the former Bok prop told Keo.co.za. “So I’m sure he’ll be able to work out anything that might go wrong from a technical perspective on the day.”
Du Plessis faces up to Matt Dunning, a player the Australian media have been talking up lately for his impressive displays off the bench for the Waratahs and his early Test season displays.
“Dunning’s had a great season and he’ll be a handful for Jannie early on,” he said. “If I was playing up against him I’d definitely target him. He’s making his debut, and he’ll be a little nervous to start with, but I think he’ll settle relatively quickly.
“The Aussies are crafty, and they’ll shift the point of impact and try some other things,” he added. “The first 50 or so minutes will be the most difficult period, but I’ve got no doubt that he’ll do more than simply cope. He has the intelligence and talent to excel, and with the calibre of players he has behind him and a skipper like Bob who’ll be guiding him through the match he’ll be fine.
“The other area of concern for some people was our second row but I think we’ll cope with Ackermann and Muller,” he continued. “They were superb in the Super 14 and on the year end tour preceding that. “Ackermann’s value in this side is immeasurable considering we have a young front row. But I think Jake has got the balance of youth and experience spot on.”
The Australians have lamented the loss of No 8 Wycliff Palu, injured in the first half of last week’s Test against New Zealand. Kempson echoed those sentiments saying the back row would be a far less potent unit without the 120kg wrecking ball.
“He’ll definitely be a major loss to them as he’s one of their major ball runners. He provided a lot of the go-forward they generated in the All Black Test,” he said before turning his attention to the Wallaby team as a whole.
“As a team they’ll still be feeling the effects of that encounter, in the same way we were a little battered after our opening Tri Nations match against them.”
Traditionally Australia have looked to shift their point of attack to the wide channels, but with their perception that the Boks are fielding a weakened pack, some pundits are suggesting that that they may look to mix it in the tight. Kempson believes this would be an error of judgment.
“They’ll make a huge mistake in looking to attack us up front,” he said. “I think they’re underestimating this pack, which is not a weak one at all. There are some really high quality individuals there and they’ll find that out this weekend.
“Bob [Skinstad] made it clear that they [the Boks] were going to play ‘Bulls style’ rugby, and they certainly have the personnel to do that.
“Australia must go wide and I think they’ll do that. They would be silly to keep it tight.”
Du Plessis, speaking at the team announcement yesterday was at his unassuming best.
“You always hear new Boks talking about dreams come true, but we are not making it up,” Du Plessis said. “For my brother [Bismarck] and I, it was a dream forged through a lot of sweat and pain, so forgive my smile.
“You see, when we were kids growing up on our farm in Bethlehem, our extremely strict mother asked us what sport we wanted to play. We said rugby, of course. And she said ‘right, see that hill’ â€¦ Jus, we ran up and down that hill and she would say, ‘so you want to be Springboks, Then run!’
“There was no need for a gym,” Jannie says. “The farm was a gym. Have you ever carried sheep to a dipping tank?”
By Ryan Vrede