Hooker Bismarck du Plessis was dropped to the bench for South Africa’s Rugby Championship Test against Australia as part of a planned squad rotation, coach Heyneke Meyer said yesterday.
Du Plessis, wrongly sent off in South Africa’s recent 29-15 loss to New Zealand, made way for Adriaan Strauss in one of two changes for the game against the struggling Wallabies on Saturday at Newlands.
In the other, Fourie du Preez replaced Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf for his first start in two years and a rematch with the Wallabies after last wearing the No. 9 jersey for the Springboks in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final loss to Australia.
Meyer said that Du Plessis losing his place in the starting team had nothing to do with his red card against the All Blacks on Sept. 14, which was the result of an error by French referee Romain Poite and removed from the player’s record by the International Rugby Board.
“The players all knew what the plans were for the Rugby Championships and where they stand,” Meyer said. “We were always going to rotate players where possible and planned to start this Test with Adriaan and Fourie.”
Prop Jannie du Plessis and flyhalf Morne Steyn are to play their 50th Tests at Newlands as South Africa chases the bonus-point victory that will take the tournament to a mouthwatering decider between the two top-ranked teams when the Springboks host the world and southern hemisphere champions, the All Blacks, at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday next week.
New Zealand lead South Africa by four points and travel to Argentina this weekend when the Springboks host the Wallabies.
Australia, who are name their team on today, ended a three-match losing run under new coach Ewen McKenzie with a narrow victory over Argentina in their last outing, but has talked of a tough trip to South Africa after a 38-12 humbling at home by the Springboks on Sept. 7.
The Wallabies are boosted by captain James Horwill and prop Benn Robinson being back in contention for a place in the team — players who could offer much-needed forward power and experience for Australia and were missing for the confidence-bruising loss in Brisbane.
Strauss called Horwill “inspirational” for Australia.
“We had good success overseas against them, but I think it’s going to be a totally different game,” Strauss said. “It’s going to be very tough. [Up front] they will be better. We expect them to get emotional about it and fired up about it. So they’ll be better.”
Strauss also said the Springboks had put Du Plessis’ Eden Park red card behind them, even though it still rankles fans in South Africa, who retain a sense of injustice for the New Zealand loss.
“I must say directly after the game, coach Heyneke Meyer and [captain] Jean [de Villiers] handled it very well and we needed to move on,” Strauss said. “We were disappointed with the loss, but we needed to move on.”