Du Preez vows to lead Boks from the front

Fourie du Preez faces a tough task hauling the Springboks into the Rugby World Cup knockout rounds after they suffered the biggest shock in the tournament’s history as well as losing their captain to injury.

The 33-year-old, widely considered one of the best halfbacks in the world, says he will “lead from the front”.

And that’s just what a lot of South Africans want right now.

The country still cannot get over seeing their beloved rugby idols beaten 34-32 in their opening World Cup match against Japan.

The thumping 46-6 Pool B win over Samoa may have reassured them, but the decision of captain Jean de Villiers to quit after suffering a second broken jaw in six weeks came as a new blow.

South Africa go into their third game against Scotland on Saturday still not certain of qualification meaning Du Preez has a big job on his hands.

Without de Villiers and injured vice captain Victor Matfield, Du Preez has lost 200 caps and must galvanise a youthful side at St James Park.

“I’m not one for many words so I’ll lead from the front on Saturday,” Du Preez said of his captaincy style.

“Luckily we have guys such as Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen to back me up, as well as a lot of experience across the team.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity.

“A few months ago I thought my rugby career was over, and a few weeks ago I didn’t think I was even going to be here in England today.

“But life sometimes takes funny turns so to sit here as captain is unbelievable for me.”

Meanwhile, Scotland have rejected claims they are putting out a second string line-up against South Africa.

The Dark Blues can all but clinch a quarter-final slot if they become the second Pool B team to beat the Springboks.

But Vern Cotter has again tinkered with his team, making a raft of changes.

Al Dickinson, Ross Ford, Mark Bennett and Sean Maitland – key performers for the Scots in their opening two victories over Japan and the United States – are either benched or rested altogether.

Cotter is also without injured duo Finn Russell and John Hardie and in all, seven members of the starting XV to face the two-time former winners are not regarded as the Kiwi’s first picks.

But assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys denies the head coach has written off beating the Boks in preference to keeping his men fresh for their final – and potentially decisive – group game with Samoa.

“I don’t understand why people are saying it’s a second string,” Humphreys said.

“What hasn’t been written is that international rugby is a hugely, hugely physical sport.

“I’d prefer them to write about a 31-man squad playing three huge games in 10 days.

“We’re confident in the group we’ve picked.”

South Africa team to play Scotland: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (captain); Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis; Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager; Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen.

Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Frans Malherbe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Scotland team to play South Africa: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Richie Vernon, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Duncan Weir, Greig Laidlaw (capt), David Denton, Blair Cowan, Josh Strauss; Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, WP Nel, Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid.

Reserves: Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson, Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson, Ryan Wilson, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Pete Horne, Sean Lamont.

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