CAPE TOWN – Fourie du Preez was a master of scrumhalf play, and now he will help two Springbok halfbacks make the most of their ability at the Bulls.
Director of rugby Jake White confirmed yesterday that 2007 world champion Du Preez has been working with Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier, and hopes that the duo will be able to find their stride in 2020 after a difficult last year, which saw them both miss out on the Bok World Cup squad.
After Van Zyl wore the No 9 jersey in last week’s Super Rugby Unlocked victory over Griquas, Papier gets his opportunity tomorrow against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The 23-year-old Papier, who hails from Clanwilliam in the Western Cape, earned his seven Test caps in 2018, but had to watch Faf de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach operate at scrumhalf in 2019.
Blessed with incredible speed, Papier is known for his lightning breaks around the fringes, but needed to work on his tactical kicking and decision-making to become a Bok regular.
Who better than Du Preez to teach him those skills “Last year, they (Papier and Van Zyl) were a bit disappointed that they couldn’t get any rhythm, as both wanted to play a lot. This year, we brought in Fourie du Preez and he helps them weekly to sharpen up their game. We are honest with both of them, and they understand that there are two tournaments in one – the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup,” White said yesterday. “Within three months, it is impossible to play the same guy every week, and they are both happy that they will get enough game time. Just like (TJ) Perenara and (Aaron) Smith (at the All Blacks), it is important to give both players opportunities.
“I always said Embrose will get some game time. It was never a question that he is sort of the number two. The Cheetahs make lots of line-breaks, and Embrose is one of the quickest as well.
“They give a lot of line-breaks as well, and conceded about eight in the last game. If we can make some line-breaks and get guys like Jade Stighling and Embrose Papier running through those holes, then we will get some try-scoring opportunities.
“It actually works out quite nicely, as I’d like to see Embrose start a game. I’d like to see how he combines with that backline, and to see whether we counter the Cheetahs’ pace.”
Speed is the same reason White brought in Stighling at left wing when he named his team yesterday, with David Kriel moving to the right in place of Travis Ismaiel. But apart from welcoming captain Duane Vermeulen back from injury, the former Bok coach’s biggest shift in thinking came in midfield, where Cornal Hendricks is now at outside centre, with Clinton Swart coming in at No 12.
Stedman Gans is unlucky to miss out on selection, as he possesses the pace and silky skills required to unlock defences. Perhaps he could be more of a playmaker at inside centre going forward, but for Hendricks, it is a full-circle moment of sorts to wear the No 13 jersey again.
That is where he made his name at provincial level for the Boland Cavaliers, but he was ignored by then-Stormers coach Allister Coetzee at Super Rugby level.
White mentioned that Hendricks – who has 12 Bok caps – looked comfortable alongside Swart in training this week, and it might be the ideal position for the man from Wellington.
In addition, Swart is a robust midfielder who will look to stop Cheetahs No 12 Frans Steyn in full flight, and thereby denying the home team momentum across the advantage line.
The other changes sees Johan Grobbelaar coming in at hooker for Corniel Els, with Joe van Zyl moving up from the Under-21s as a reserve, while Gerhard Steenekamp replaces the injured prop Lizo Gqoboka (calf, out for up to four weeks) on the bench.
15 Gio Aplon 14 David Kriel 13 Cornal Hendricks 12 Clinton Swart 11 Jade Stighling 10 Morne Steyn 9 Embrose Papier 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Arno Botha 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Bench: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Gerhard Steenekamp 18 Mornay Smith 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Ivan van Zyl 22 Chris Smith 23 Stedman Gans