Andries Bekker realises that the Test against Argentina at Newlands on Saturday will be his opportunity to stake a claim for the Springbok No 5 jersey.
During the Bok team announcement on Wednesday, head coach Heyneke Meyer revealed that he was impressed with Juandre Kruger’s contribution as a No 5 lock during the 2-0 series victory over England in June. Meyer refused to describe the Bulls second rower’s omission from this weekend’s match 22 as the player being ‘dropped’, but rather pointed to the fact that it was Bekker’s chance to prove his worth at Test level.
Bekker has had a long-term absence from the national scene as he has struggled with injury. He last played for South Africa two years ago, against New Zealand in Wellington during the 2010 Tri-Nations.
Bekker said he was delighted to be back on the Test stage, especially with the game being played at Newlands – his home ground. But he also knows the importance of this weekend’s starting opportunity.
‘This game is my best chance to compete for the Springbok No 5 jersey,’ Bekker told keo.co.za. ‘With Juandre performing so well this season, it’s going to be tough to start week in and week out.’
The media questioned the 2.08m-tall lock about the pressure of being compared to former Bok lock great Victor Matfield, who was the incumbent lineout kingpin from 2008-2011. However, Bekker said he wanted to make his own impact against the Pumas.
‘I never wanted to be Victor. He was bladdy good at what he did. I guess it’s normal to measure me against the guy who played in the position before I did. But I don’t want to be another Victor. I want to be Andries.’
Meanwhile, Bekker will start alongside Eben Etzebeth, who has owned the Bok No 4 jersey this year. Bekker lauded the 20-year-old Stormers hardman for his rapid rise.
‘Last year, Eben was still playing Varsity Cup rugby. Now he’s doing well in Super Rugby and for the Boks. He’s always there in support and is a strong ball-carrier. I believe he will go on and play 100 Tests for South Africa.’
By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town