‘Substitutes important’ stresses Bok strongman

Os du Randt, a two time World Cup-winning Springbok, has backed his countrymen to wrap up a Test series victory over the British & Irish Lions this weekend. [more]

‘Substitutes important’ stresses Bok strongman

Os du Randt, a two time World Cup-winning Springbok, has backed his countrymen to wrap up a Test series victory over the British & Irish Lions this weekend.

However, that is if they heed their mistakes from last Saturday’s streaky victory in Durban.

Whilst impressed with aspects of his former team-mates’ 26-21 win over the Lions in the first Test – "going up 1-0 is important" – former SA front rower Du Randt believes Bok coach Peter de Villiers needs to keep his strongest XV out there for as long as possible come Saturday.

"The Springbok replacements did not have much of an impact last week, whereas all of the Lions’ replacements made a difference," said Du Randt, the most-capped Springbok prop of all time.

"We need to keep our strongest team out there for as long as possible, but when those impact players come on the onus will be on them to make a difference.

"It shouldn’t matter when you come on, be it with 20 minutes or five minutes left, as an impact player you should always get the better of your tiring opponent in a one-on-one situation."

Looking back at last week’s five-point win – when the Boks faded badly in the final quarter – Du Randt continued: "One must be objective when looking back; the fact is, the Lions could easily have won that game. They had more try-scoring opportunities than we did.

"This week the Lions have a lot to play for, in terms of saving the series and they’ll be under pressure… Whereas we’re 80 minutes away from clinching a series victory over the Lions – something I am obviously hoping for after the disappointment of 1997."

Os Du Randt was on the wrong end of a series defeat against the 1997 Lions

The use of substitutes aside, the other big talking point after the first Test was the scrumming strength of Springbok loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira, who won his duel against England veteran Phil Vickery.

Du Randt, the excitement evident in his voice, gave his take: "I think the Boks surprised the Lions in that department. They would’ve been looking to attack John Smit at tighthead, instead it was the Beast who did the job on Phil Vickery.

"With all the fuss of Smit’s move to tighthead, everyone seemed to forget about the Beast, but I doubt they will make the same mistake twice and they will give Beast the attention he deserves. Some people tend to forget that Beast is still relatively new to international rugby, but after last week’s performance up front the Boks will take the ascendancy into the second Test."

One man not new to Test rugby, but making his return after an injury-enforced lay-off is Western Province and Stormers hard man Schalk Burger, who will win his 50th Test cap.

Du Randt, in his second coming as an international player between 2004 and 2007 (having ‘retired’ from the sport in 2000), played many Tests alongside the blond flanker and is better qualified than most to speak about the influence of the 2004 IRB World Player of the Year.

"Schalk’s obviously an unbelievable and very unique player… and if every South African team had 15 Schalk Burgers to call upon, well, not many countries would beat us," said the 1995 and 2007 World Cup winner.

"He has an incredible physical presence and I have no doubt that opposition teams worry about playing against him. For me, the big thing about Schalk is that he’s a lovely bloke off the field, but when you put a Springbok jersey on him he seems to transform himself into something different and that’s the phenomenal Springbok player that we will see come Saturday.

"I am sure he will be the first to admit that he did not have the best 2009 Super 14," added Du Randt. "But that, along with the threat of Heinrich Brüssow and his recent injuries will fire him up. And I, for one, am expecting him to have a big game."

Du Randt’s Boks won the third Test , but not the series, 12 years ago

Du Randt, now 36, is naturally tipping a Bok victory – and thereby a series triumph, even with one Test remaining. But the front row giant is taking nothing for granted, despite the ‘Loftus Versfeld factor’ on Saturday.

"There are two ways to look at it," said Du Randt. "There is the great home support in Pretoria and then, of course, the fact that they are playing at altitude.

"I have plenty of friends in Pretoria and they are apparently on a real high there at the moment after the Super 14. I have no doubt the Bulls fans will also get behind the Boks, as they do their team, and that will be a major boost for John and his team.

"When it comes to altitude we won’t be worrying about it at all… but there is no doubt that the Lions will have that in the back of their minds.

"Do they go full out and try and build up a lead, or do they stay in the match and then go flat out in the final 20 minutes? That could create a bit of uncertainty in their minds, but, again, it proves just how important those substitutes will be in the final quarter – for us and the Lions."

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