Boks up for final fling

Fourie du Preez writes off the Toulouse defeat as a bad day at the office and truly believes the Springboks will bounce back at Croke Park.

There was a clamour of concern before the Boks departed South Africa. Medical experts claimed they had endured too much rugby, and a three-Test tour could only end in disaster.

The Boks looked tired in their loss to France, and have been paddled in the two midweek games against Leicester and Saracens. They managed a win over Italy last Saturday, but there are still doubts of their ability to front against the Six Nations champions.

‘The French caught us off guard in Toulouse, but that’s just one game,’ Du Preez told ‘If you think about the success we’ve enjoyed this season, you can’t say we’re vulnerable after one loss.

‘We weren’t up for what was a very passionate performance by the French, and they were better than us on the day. We showed what we’re capable of against Italy last weekend.

‘We can’t take responsibility for the two midweek losses, so you have to look at things in perspective, we’ve only had that one loss.’

Du Preez injured his hand in the Italy Test, but is confident he’ll start in South Africa’s final fixture of 2009. The Boks scrumhalf came through training on Tuesday with no complications, and coach Peter de Villiers will be relieved to know his star player is available. He delivered a solid showing in Udine, even though his forwards were backpedaling.

‘Most of the year the pack has been going forward, so that’s made it easier for me,’ he said. ‘There have been occasions on this tour where the forwards have struggled, but this Saturday they’ll have another opportunity to show what they’re made of.’

Ireland are full of beans ahead of this clash, their media claiming the Boks are there for the taking and young players like Keith Earls also underlining the tourists’ vulnerability.

Characteristically cool, Du Preez had a subtle dig at Ireland’s presumption.

‘They’ve done well over the last two years if you think they didn’t make the quarter-finals at the World Cup,’ he said with a deadpan expression. ‘They’ve done very well at club and international level and have some great individuals.

‘They’re a very physical side, a well balanced side and I’m sure they’ll play with plenty of passion.’

The two teams will meet for a formal dinner on Saturday where the IRB Player of the Year is set to be announced. Both Du Preez and Brian O’Driscoll are in the running, but the South African said he feels no pressure to outdo the Irish captain on this particular occasion.

‘Brian’s had a great season, and to be honest, I had one of the best seasons of my career. But it’s just another Test and won’t be about personal battles.

‘It’s not about personal accolades for me, it’s about the team. We really want to win this Test and finish the year on a high.’

By Jon Cardinelli, in Dublin