Beast banned from playing for Boks

2010-06-07 00:00

THE vindictive banning of the Beast was the only dark moment in a successful weekend for South African rugby with the Springboks, both men and women, and the SA U20 team emerging with victories.

The second-string Springboks defeated Wales 34-31 in Cardiff, the national women’s team had a 27-8 win over hosts Scotland and Sharks fullback Patrick Lambie scored 25 points as SA U20 opened their IRB Junior World Championships with a 40-14 victory over Tonga.

Meanwhile, on home soil, the Sport and Recreation Department struck back for the politicians by banning the Sharks’ Zimbabwean-born prop Beast Mtawarira from selection for the Springbok team.

Regan Hoskins, the president of the SA Rugby Union, said at the weekend that Mtawarira, who has lived in Durban for the past five years and has already played 22 Tests for the Springboks, is legally resident and employed in South Africa.

“He was selected to play for the Springboks having fulfilled the eligibility criteria of the International Rugby Board.”

But that is not enough for the politicians. Delighting in being as obstructive as possible, and in spite of the IRB, they have ruled that he cannot play for the Boks because he is not yet in possession of a South African passport.

Hoskins said that Mtawarira, who is clear to play for the Sharks, is desperate to become a South African citizen as soon as possible and Saru is assisting him in his efforts.

On the rugby front, captain John Smit said the Boks were “ordinary” in spoiling the Millenium anniversary celebrations for the Welsh. Smit added that a major improvement was needed if the South Africans were to beat France, the Six Nations champions, at Newlands on Saturday.

“We didn’t really play off our lineouts, we couldn’t play off the scrums and, really, I thought we were pretty ordinary.

“The win is the only thing we can take home, but that was important. We haven’t been together as a squad and we were scratchy, but we got what we wanted.”

He told reporters his job is now to “ensure that we get better and better with every game”.

He said he had been embarrassed by his indecisive pass, which gifted Welsh centre James Hook an intercept try, and seven points, and had asked vice-captain Victor Matfield to speak to the players immediately after the incident.

“I made a big mistake. How could I try and gee up the players behind the posts by telling them to cut out the basic errors when I had just made one like that? So I asked Victor to contribute.”

But in the final analysis, it was an excellent win by a disrupted, below-strength and poorly-prepared Springbok side, which mixed four players still based overseas with a South African contingent and eight players who had been involved in the Super 14 final the week before.

Coach Peter de Villiers admitted it had been a difficult week.

“Any coach would always want more time with his players to prepare for a Test match, but we knew what we had and I thought we did a good job.”

The three Test debutants, Gio Aplon, Francois Louw and try-scorer Juan de Jongh, all took their chances, and Smit said he had been impressed by their contribution.

“The most pleasing thing was the way the new guys performed after such a short preparation period and after we fell behind early on. I thought all the new guys were outstanding and they will provide real competition for places.”

But Smit was even more enthusiastic about veteran lock Danie Rossouw and said he would be challenging Bakkies Botha in the second row.

“Danie is in the form of his life right now,” Smit said. “For how many years have we thought the choice for the number four jersey [Botha] was a fait accompli. But I don’t think that is the case anymore.”

• With a number of players nursing minor injuries, and the availability of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez still uncertain, the naming of the Bok team for the Newlands Test has been delayed until tomorrow.

See page 22 for Test report.

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