Beefy Test squad chosen

2010-07-09 00:00

COACH Peter de Villiers has selected conservatively in naming an experienced, physical Springbok team for the Tri-Nations opener against the All Blacks at Eden Park in Auckland tomorrow.

De Villiers has a full squad available after locks Bakkies Botha (hamstring strain) and Danie Rossouw (hip injury) were both cleared to play.

De Villiers showed his hand by including both in a beefy Test squad and he will have four locks in the match 22.

Botha rejoins Victor Matfield in the second-row while Rossouw and Stormers lock Andries Bekker were named on the bench. Rossouw, able to also play number eight or flank, will provide cover for the back-row as De Villiers has overlooked more mobile loose forwards in Ryan Kankowski and Dewald Potgieter as impact players.

John Smit’s run-on team shows three changes to the one which thumped Italy in the second Test in East London. Specialist Zane Kirchner returns for Gio Aplon at fullback, the successful Bulls centre Wynand Olivier takes over from Juan de Jongh at inside centre and Matfield, after a brief rest, replaces lanky Bekker at lock.

Experience, size and strength under the high ball have also resulted in centre Jean de Villiers gaining selection ahead of the nippy Aplon on the wing.

Significantly, Sharks prop Jannie du Plessis, who impressed during the Super 14, is at tighthead ahead of the overseas-based BJ Botha.

Aplon and Bekker are on the bench, with Bekker replacing Flip van der Merwe, and Rossouw was selected ahead of Potgieter. Substitutes from the East London game have been retained — hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, prop Botha, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and flyhalf/centre Butch James. Young centre De Jongh has been omitted.

De Villiers conceded that selection has been difficult.

“All of the players in the group are fit and available so there were some tough choices to make, but we are putting a very strong team out there.

“Last year selection was a bit easier. We knew our starting team and we had seven guys on the bench. This year in almost all positions we have to sit down and think what will be best for this Test. I just hope the players that are there will reward us with a great performance.”

He said that the Boks’ three Tri-Nations wins over the All Blacks last season will have no bearing on tomorrow’s Test.

“If you look backwards you will go backwards. Last year’s results are in the past and we face a new challenge on Saturday. It will be tough, but we expect it to be — as it always is against the All Blacks.”

Springbok vice captain and lineout architect Matfield was grilled by the New Zealand media over the set pieces.

“The lineout is always an area we target against any opponents, but we’ll be looking to contest and get a few steals early on to maybe sow a bit of doubt in their minds.

“The lineout is one of our strengths, but we have to be good in all departments against the All Blacks because they are a great team. You don’t just pitch up here and expect a win; you have to work for it and I am looking forward to a fantastic contest,” he said.

Asked about the new Bok midfield combination, veteran centre Jaque Fourie said he is looking forward to playing with Wynand Olivier.

“He is a great player and had a great Super 14 and I think we will go well. It is not only about the midfield partnership though, but about how we can bring the wings and the fullback into play too,” Fourie said.

Irishman Alan Lewis will referee the Test, which kicks off at 9.35 am tomorrow.

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Jean de Villiers, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (capt), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 BJ Botha, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon.

Kick-off: 9.35 am (SuperSport 1).

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