A battle within the Bok camp
Not many rugby rivalries at the moment are as intense as the one between Springbok hookers Adriaan Strauss and Bismarck du Plessis.
Rivalries are a big part of rugby, and not many at the moment are as intense as the one between Springbok hookers Adriaan Strauss and Bismarck du Plessis.
Both players have impressed in their two opportunities to start games in the Rugby Championship so far, with Strauss' energy invaluable against Argentina and Du Plessis' physicality a major influence in Australasia.
This leaves coach Heyneke Meyer with quite a 'nice' selection headache as he tries to decide which top class hooker to start with against Australia at Newlands on Saturday.
It is a situation reminiscent of the one which developed when Du Plessis was forced to play understudy to skipper John Smit for so long, especially as it is always described as 'healthy' to anyone who asks what impact it has on the squad.
Strauss took his opportunity well last year when Du Plessis was sidelined with a serious knee injury, but now that the Sharks hard man is back to full fitness the battle is on as they both push their claims to start.
Speaking at the launch of the Springbok Experience Museum in Cape Town, Strauss admitted that the competition for the No.2 jersey could not be more intense.
"We compete with each other, we both want to play in the starting position but at the moment in the squad we are competing for the same goal," he said.
The best part of this rivalry for Meyer is that both players offer something different, so rotating them strategically to suit the opposition can make the team more competitive whilst keeping both players highly motivated.
Strauss acknowledged that he is happy to make an impact off the bench if that is what he is asked to do, but added that although he and Du Plessis have a lot of respect for one another there is no doubt that they are in direct competition.
"Whatever I need to do to make the Boks win and make it a good day for Springbok rugby I will do that.
"I will continue on fighting and trying to play well and he will definitely do the same. I think it is a healthy competition between us, we respect each other and we are playing for the same cause," he said.
He said that having someone of Du Plesiss' class in the squad is a positive as it means that he can never take his place for granted.
"He is an exceptional, world class player and we will always hopefully make each other better and encourage each other to play better rugby," he said.
Strauss is expecting a much tougher test up front from Australia than what they provided in Brisbane, especially with captain James Horwill back in the side.
"I think they will pick themselves up for the game, they will be motivated and they will up their game especially up front so it is going to be very tough.
"He [Horwill] is an exceptional player and also a good leader so it will be inspirational for them and make a big impact," he said.
The Bok hooker said that although his side enjoyed dominance over the Wallabies at scrum-time in Brisbane, they are expecting a massive response from them in that area.
"I think everyone is starting to settle into the new laws, and I think they will be better. They would have worked very hard on that and we expect them to be very fired up about it so it will be a tough challenge.
"We have been working hard at scrum-time as well and it is something that we want to use as a weapon, but we have to start from scratch and Saturday will be a totally different challenge," he said.
Although many are expecting the Boks to demolish the Wallabies at Newlands given their bonus-point victory in Brisbane, Strauss insisted that the side is not getting carried away and will stick to their gameplan rather than taking a more risky approach and throwing the ball around.
"We want to stick to the structures and the way we want to play, like in Brisbane the game might open up a bit more later but we want to do the small things right and do the basic well.
"We will fight for the bonus-point try but we want to win the game, that is the main focus," he said.
By Michael de Vries