‘All Blacks were better than us’

2010-07-13 00:00

THERE will be at least two changes to the Springbok pack for Saturday’s second Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks in Wellington while at least one new face is expected among the backs.

Bok tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis is to miss Saturday’s international after suffering a calf muscle injury while remorseful lock Bakkie Botha has returned to South Africa following his nine-week suspension for head-butting.

Du Plessis will stay with the tour squad while having treatment for a Grade 2 strain of the calf muscle.

BJ Botha, the former Sharks prop now based in Ulster, seems certain to take over from Du Plessis with CJ van der Linde, because of his ability to play on both sides of the scrum, preferred to Beast Mtawariria on the bench.

The consistent Danie Rossouw is an obvious replacement for Botha in the second-row unless Bok coach Peter de Villiers opts to increase his lineout options.

He could do this by selecting Andries Bekker at lock and fielding Rossouw on the flank in place of Francois Louw who, along with several other Springboks, went missing in action at Eden Park.

Certainly the Springboks lineout, accepted as the most effective in world rugby, was a shambles on Saturday when they were out-smarted by the New Zealanders.

The early loss of Botha to the sin-bin disrupted the Boks for 10 minutes while the throwing of hooker John Smit, as he conceded, was uncharacteristically inaccurate.

Bok team doctor Craig Roberts said yesterday that Du Plessis’ injury was the only fitness concern after the 12-32 battering the Boks took in Auckland, but there surely will be further changes to the backline.

Jean de Villiers, fielded on the wing instead of inside centre, was uncomfortable on defence and it will be a major surprise if he is not shifted back to the midfield to replace Wynand Olivier and rejoin his old partner Jaque Fourie. But finding a replacement on the wing is not as easy with the Bok tour selectors facing a difficult choice between the relatively inexperienced Francois Hougaard, a retreaded scrumhalf, or the small but exciting Gio Aplon.

There will again be questions about fullback Zane Kirchner. The Bulls fullback was brave under the high ball on Saturday, and was certainly one of the Boks’ better performers on a miserable day, but he seldom threatens — as Aplon does — on the counter-attack.

A case could also be made for the inclusion of the polished Ruan Pienaar ahead of Ricky Januarie at scrumhalf.

The tenacious Januarie mixed good with bad on Saturday and one of his loose kicks, and a poor chase, led directly to one of the All Black tries. But De Villiers has long been an admirer of Januarie’s feisty approach and a change at scrumhalf is unlikely at this stage.

The South African rugby public is in a state of high agitation after the crushing loss, but De Villiers told the media yesterday that there was no panic in the Springbok ranks.

“The way you lose is not as important as how you stand up from such a defeat,” he said.

“The guys know they didn’t perform well, they remain proud and they realise that they have hard work ahead of them this week.

“The All Blacks were very good at the weekend and they did not allow us space to play the way we wanted,” he said.

De Villiers refused to use travel fatigue as an excuse for the Boks’ feeble efforts.

“The players are professionals and travel is part of their daily lives. They are no strangers to travelling here as they do in Super 14. We can’t look for excuses. The All Blacks were better than us, it’s as simple as that.”

On the New Zealand front wing Zac Guildford and scrumhalf Alby Mathewson have been called into the All Blacks squad as cover for three injured players.

Utility back Richard Kahui is out with a shoulder injury while scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan (abdominal strain) and wing Joe Rokocoko (hamstring strain) are also in doubt.

Saturday’s Test kicks off at 9.35 am.

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