Decisions, decisions for loyal De Villiers

2011-08-20 22:03

John Smit has lost eight of his last nine tests as captain and is not assured of his place in the Springboks’ starting lineup but this will not force Peter de Villiers’ hand.

De Villiers is not Robbie Deans, and unlike the Wallabies coach, the Springbok coach will not shock everyone by firing his ­captain when on Tuesday he names the World Cup squad to defend the Webb-Ellis trophy in New Zealand.

Deans shocked Australia with his courage, but the coach’s worries about how Smit will be able to lead the team from the replacement bench in their matches against Wales, Fiji, Namibia and Samoa should only start in New Zealand, when he has to decide on the final composition of his locks and loose forwards.

The coach has to make his final decision today and tomorrow.

After four years as coach, De Villiers has done well to widen his base of players, but will still have the advantage of including at least 17 players from the team that won the 2007 World Cup, with another eight of Jake White’s group of 30 not making the cut.

The big headache is the flank position, where Juan Smith’s ­withdrawal is forcing the coach to reflect on the balance of his loose trio, and the lock position, where the absence of Andries Bekker has upset De Villiers’ long-term plans.

Smith’s position should be taken by Willem Alberts, with Ashley Johnson and Jean Deysel fighting it out for ball-carrying flank.

De Villiers will also have to reflect on his fetcher, Heinrich Brüssow, having an adjudant and decide whether Schalk Burger is up to the task. If not, Francois Louw, in Bath, UK could be called upon out of the blue.

The decision whether or not to replace Bekker will depend on how De Villiers deploys Danie Rossouw. If he uses the Blue Bulls iron man as a trump card or loose forward, it will open the door for Johann Muller to play in his second World Cup.

Flip van der Merwe is another who could slip in through the back door.

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