Du Preez ready to answer Munster’s call for raid on Saracens stronghold
Published 13/12/2012 | 05:00
Given their intractable injury problems of late, it was perhaps understandable that Munster were unable to shed much light on the surfeit of fitness woes that seem destined to course them this season.
"BJ is a key figure," admitted head coach Rob Penney.
"There is moderate concern, as there always would be with someone of his ability, and we will just have to wait and see what unfolds."
Botha's potential absence will have considerable knock-on effects, with loosehead specialist Wian du Preez looking likely to fill the tighthead breach.
Munster would surely be averse to risking two relative rookies in the front-row, as much as the recently-capped and quickly improving Dave Kilcoyne has excelled.
Du Preez has had to ride a lot of pine this term as he watched the 'Killer on the Loose' accelerate into the first-team at his expense – the South African has yet to start a Heineken Cup game this season.
"Hats off to David Kilcoyne," he says through smiling white teeth, determinedly not gritted.
"He's come through and taken his opportunity with both hands. He ended up getting two caps for Ireland and he has been playing exceptional rugby.
"For me and Marcus (Horan) and the other looseheads in the squad, we've got to work hard to get the jersey back from him. You've just got to go back, do the basics, perform well and put up your hand.
"Any time you take to the pitch you try to be noticed and put up your hand. The chances you get, you've just got to perform, put your head down.
"Everyone wants to start. That's the goal. If you get selected, it's nice. If not, you want to contribute from the bench in any way. Starting would be special."
And, perhaps, rather easier too.
With Saracens clearly contemplating a double switch in the front-row – although history informs that one should always be wary of double-bluffing between back-to-back games – the quietly-spoken Springbok could be a potent option from the off, particularly if his countryman Botha remains a "moderate concern."
"If you're in the match, you get into the mode and the tempo," he agrees.
"If you come off the bench it takes one or two scrums to get into the calling and into the rhythm. It can have positives and negatives. It worked really well for Leinster last week.
"We know that Saracens have the ability to throw in replacements en masse from the hour mark.
"That's what they have in their arsenal. We're prepared for it. Every scrum and every line-out is a competition within itself, so it doesn't matter which personnel are on; you have to treat each one with the same amount of respect."
And he is particularly respectful of the Londoners' burgeoning South African contingent, particularly John Smit, the World Cup winning captain alongside whom he made his only appearance for the Boks in 2009.
"He's got a lot of respect back home," says du Preez admiringly.
"I've worked with him and you can see the influence he had as part of the Springboks when he was captain.
"He's a winning World Cup captain and he has seen it all. His experience, his leadership skills are exceptional and he is a top-quality player.
"You know them personally, but everything they do is on video, so all the guys see all their qualities and their strong points.
"It doesn't matter if you play against a side full of South Africans or a side with no South Africans, it's the same preparation."
In that regard, du Preez doesn't mind whom he scrummages alongside – just as long as he is in the team.