Weepu back to mix it with Springboks


NZPA     23 Aug 2006     Photosport

"My brother's pretty much the same size as them, and after playing rugby league in the back yard it doesn't scare me. Running into him is pretty much the same as running into them," he said with a grin.

Big brother is giant Billy Weepu, a prop for Wellington league side Wainuiomata who was scouted by glamour Australian club Manly in his younger days.

The younger Weepu, 22, returns to the All Blacks No 9 jersey against the Springboks on Sunday (NZT), after suffering a knee injury against them in Wellington then returning as a replacement for Byron Kelleher in the 34-27 win over Australia in Auckland on Saturday.

Weepu hasn't always been a fan of playing South Africa for their spoiling tactics and their intention to make life as tough as possible for opposing halfbacks.

But the 94kg Weepu is clearly the man for the job, capable of mixing it with scavenging loose forwards and playing his confrontational style.

"It makes it a lot trickier for a halfback because you've got to dig the ball out and try to get it away when there's a lot of pressure on you.

"They're a side that likes to rush out of the line and they have their weaknesses in other areas which we try to exploit when we attack."

Despite training this week with a heavy strapping on his knee which suffered ligament damage, Weepu rates himself near enough to 100 percent fit.

There is still some minor pain and swelling in the knee but regular treatment should have him near peak for the hard Loftus Versfeld turf.

Weepu was used to the challenges of the high veldt and helped the Hurricanes sneak a win over the Bulls here in this year's Rebel Sport Super 14.

He said dealing with the thin air at altitude was becoming easier with experience but it helped to know there was a powerful bench.

On Sunday there's hooker Keven Mealamu, prop Tony Woodcock, lock Chris Jack and flanker Jerry Collins raring to go for the final 20 minutes.

"It is a mental thing as well, especially in the last 10-15 minutes of the game you've got to push yourself through it," Weepu said.

"You'll be out on your arse trying to get some air, but the guys are slowly getting used to it and we're probably getting more comfortable here.

"Hopefully if it's a tight game some of the boys coming off the bench can lift us and carry us for the remainder of the game.