England v South Africa
Du Plessis ready for England assignment
November 20, 2008
Jannie du Plessis is ready for action despite his short preparation time © Getty Images
South Africa's Jannie du Plessis is confident he is ready to take on England on Saturday despite only joining up with the squad four days ago.
The 26-year-old was tucking into a birthday dinner at home with his family on Sunday when he received a call from coach Peter de Villiers asking him to fly to London for the season-ending Test at Twickenham.
It was a bittersweet surprise, though, as his younger brother Bismarck was the unlucky player making way, having injured a hamstring in last weekend's 14-10 victory over Scotland. Sentiment has had to be put aside, however, as du Plessis prepares to lock horns with England's front row.
"I've had to join the squad midway through a tour before so that helps," he said, referring to when he was a late replacement at the 2007 World Cup for BJ Botha.
"I flew on Sunday night and arrived on Monday and went straight into training. We've had a good week and I know most of the guys who are here so it makes it easier to slot in if you've played with them before.
"It's going to be a tough one but that's what playing international rugby is all about."
The Sharks prop, who is also a qualified doctor, is anticipating a typically physical encounter against Martin Johnson's men, particularly in the scrum - although the Springboks' task has been made easier by the late withdrawal of Andrew Sheridan with a neck injury.
"It doesn't matter what happened last week against Australia, this is a new challenge and the fact that England have always been a good scrummaging pack over the years will not change.
"So I think we should ready ourselves for a very physical confrontation."
Although he missed the wins over Wales and Scotland, Du Plessis is confident he will feel at home in South Africa's scrum alongside captain John Smit, who will revert to hooker, and Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira. "It helps a lot if you've played with the guys," he added.
"It's nice to scrum with John. Like Bismarck, he is big and solid so it makes it easier for guys on both sides to slot in if the hooker knows what to do. Beast is a powerful individual and the big thing is to scrum as a unit. We have to do well together and not as individuals. It's going to be a huge challenge."
South Africa have had to make one other enforced change to the starting XV on Saturday, bringing in Danie Rossouw for Juan Smith, who took a blow to the head at Murrayfield last weekend.
Lock Bakkies Botha expects Rossouw to have no problem settling in. "I believe Danie is one of the best ball-carriers in the world and I've played with him since I was seven years old," said Botha.
"He's a good rugby player and a good ball-carrier and he must just go on to the pitch this weekend and prove it. I've got a lot of confidence in Danie and he should just enjoy himself and get the ball and run hard."