New-cap Eddie Andrews has a vital role to play when the Springboks take on Ireland in the first of two tests at Vodacom Park in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Andrews will pack down in the crucial position of tighthead prop and his performance will have much bearing on the outcome of coach Jake White’s first match in-charge.
White knows that playing the ball close to the rucks and mauls against the Triple Crown winners could be tantamount to suicide so good quick ball is imperative to the desired expansive game plan.
The Steenberg High School old boy will be called upon to produce a Herculean effort to nullify that Irish threat and ensure that the new half-back combination of Fourie du Preez and Jaco van der Westhuyzen can get the outside backs away.
Andrews is the third cog in an, as yet, untested front-row with skipper John Smit and the experienced Os du Randt and will be hoping to take his superb Super 12 form into the test arena.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but when I run onto the field and hear the national anthem I’m sure it will sink in,” said Andrews of his meteoric rise from Western Province reserve prop to the Bok No 3 jersey.
“I really didn’t think I would be here,” he said, “but I am ready to take responsibility and hopefully we can restore some of the lost pride.” Andrews, who weighs in at 114kg and stands at 1.85m, will pack down against Leinster powerhouse Reggie Corrigan on Saturday in what will be one of the key match-ups of the test.
“It is always a great opportunity to learn from other players and the past few weeks has been an incredible learning curve.”
Andrews switched from the loosehead to the tighthead and shed a few kilograms in the off-season that has seen him become a formidable force in the tight and loose.
The 27-year-old Capetonian made his Western Province debut in 2000, but with Bok props such as Toks van der Linde, Cobus Visagie, Robbie Kempson, Daan Human and Faan Rautenbach to contend with he had to be content with a bit-part role.
With such illustrious company, Andrews started just nine Currie Cup matches in four seasons, but now is the cornerstone in a menacing Bok tight five.
“Scrumming is basically about how well you work together as a unit. I know the Irish are all strong and talented, but we just need to go out and do our job to the best of our ability.”
Andrews and his teammates meanwhile came through the afternoon training session at Shimla Park relatively unscathed. Following the freak injury to De Wet Barry on Monday, that ruled the midfielder out of the game for up to five weeks, the Boks can ill- afford another injury to an already depleted side.
The Bok management team must have therefore been holding its collective breath when outside centre Marius Joubert had to leave the field with a facial injury towards the end of the session.
However, the news was good, with the Province playmaker only having to have a couple of stitches in his nose courtesy of an over- robust tackle on one of the opposition players.
Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan has meanwhile named an unchanged team from that which beat Scotland to win the Triple Crown in the Six Nations championship in March.
The team will be led by the precociously talented Brian O’Driscoll, who earns his 51st test cap and 14th as captain.