Jannie du Plessis says the pressure of playing against Benn Robinson prompted a stronger scrummaging performance from the Springboks.
The Wallaby loosehead tormented the Boks last year, out-scrumming captain John Smit in Cape Town, Perth and Brisbane. His short and awkward build meant he got under the Bok captain, who played tighthead last year, but in two Tests this year he’s had less of an influence against specialist No 3s BJ Botha (in Brisbane) and Du Plessis (at Loftus).
It’s rare that a loosehead is viewed as one of the Wallabies’ danger men, but that was the case with Robinson last year. Tighthead Du Plessis – who missed training on Monday and Tuesday after taking a knock to the shin – said they’d have to produce a similar showing to Pretoria to negate his influence once more.
‘There’s no doubt that he’s a good player, he’s proved it over and over,’ Du Plessis told keo.co.za. ‘We knew we had to play well to neutralise him at scrum-time.
‘There was a bit more pressure knowing his reputation, but I thought we handled it. There was talk of both sides jumping the gun at the scrums, but there was too much of a hoo-ha made about it.’
Once the helter-skelter nature of the match in the first quarter subsided and the Boks slowed down the frantic pace and forced more set pieces, they clawed their way back into the game. Du Plessis believes the slack start, where they trailed 21-7, could’ve been down to a hangover from the Soccer City Test against the All Blacks.
‘We really gave 150% in Soweto and put our bodies on the line. Emotionally, it took its toll and although you don’t want it to affect your start a week later, it could have been a contributing factor to it. When we were 14-0 down I was thinking I haven’t even had time to hit a ruck or make a tackle.’
Du Plessis may have aided in shoring up the Bok scrum, but only made one tackle and had one ball-carry in 54 minutes. The tighthead dismissed claims from many critics that the intensity of the Test wasn’t on a par to previous Tri-Nations matches.
‘That really is something to say. We scored 70 points in total, I didn’t see much kicking from either side and there was lots of running. We don’t care about what other people think, it was a great game to be a part of.’
On a personal level, Du Plessis will make his first Test start in Bloemfontein – where he was schooled and went to university. Other former Shimlas who are in the 22 include Juan Smith, Flip van der Merwe, CJ van der Linde and Du Plessis’ prop partner, Gurthro Steenkamp.
‘It’s great to know we all sweated blood here, did fitness and contact on these fields,’ Du Plessis said from the Shimlas clubhouse. ‘Juan even worked behind the bar and earned his pocket money here. When I came to the club as a first year, I wanted to get my picture on the wall like the former Boks.
‘We have a new generation of Shimlas in the Bok squad. There are so many memories. Gurthro’s res was 20m down the road from mine, and the night before matches we’d watch a movie and talk about how we’re going to pump the opposition in the scrums.’
By Grant Ball, in Bloemfontein