Andries Bekker is confident he can fill the void left by the injured Bakkies Botha.
The partnership of Victor Matfield and Botha is one of the most feared in world rugby and the injury to Botha has undoubtedly had an impact on the squad. But with Bekker standing 2.08m tall and weighing 120kgs the Springboks will lose nothing in terms of stature.
Bekker, who enjoyed an outstanding Super 14 campaign for the Stormers, admits the absence of Botha will clearly be felt, but believes he can bring his own qualities to the side.
“We are definitely going to miss Bakkies, he’s a special player. I think Bakkies plays in his own way, but I will bring my own physical edge to the game,” Bekker told keo.co.za. “But I’m really happy. I’m starting against the All Blacks at Newlands, what more can I ask for.
“I see the game as a big challenge, especially now with Bakkies out. If I don’t step up this weekend I think I will have ruined my chances to start again, so its a big one for me.”
The return of captain Richie McCaw has certainly galvanised the All Blacks and Bekker claimed that the side they will face at Newlands is very different from the one they defeated in Dunedin.
“I think they are a more well rounded side now. I think they have improved a lot since they lost to Australia, and of course Richie makes a huge difference.”
Bekker echoed the views of his opponent Brad Thorn, when he claimed that fitness has become an important element of the game under the ELVs.
“I think fitness is starting to play a big role now under the new laws, especially with the quick taps we run more and especially for the locks, we have to tackle more,” said Bekker. “I’m quite happy with my fitness. We’ve done a lot of fitness work during the last week.”
The All Blacks have been full of praise for big lock this week, with Thorn describing him as an “absolute monster”, but Bekker is not getting carried away by all the talk.
“I think getting praise from guys of that calibre is a good thing, but I don’t take it too seriously because if I play poorly on the weekend then it all means nothing.”
By Andrew Worling