Big guns for Bok clash

2008-06-13 00:00

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has rolled out the heavy artillery for today’s second Test against Wales here, admitting he is looking to see as many of his players in action ahead of this year’s Tri-Nations competition.

After beating the Six Nations champions 43-17 in the first Test in Bloemfontein a week ago and before facing Italy next weekend, De Villiers has picked his strongest team to test new combinations and form ahead of the bigger challenges later this year.

The Springboks are set for clashes against Australia and New Zealand in July and August and while still showing respect to Warren Gatland’s men, De Villiers knows there are bigger fish to fry later in the season.

By making four changes to his side, recalling World Cup star Victor Matfield at lock to partner Bakkies Botha, beefing up his front-row, including Ricky Januarie at scrumhalf and opting for the talented Francois Steyn on the replacements bench, the new Bok coach no doubt wants to wrap up the Wales series in style.

De Villiers has changed his front row — the only area where Wales dominated in the first Test — recalling World Cup prop and handing Coastal Sharks prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira a debut.

He has also selected the attacking Ryan Kankowski on the bench, along with veteran fullback Percy Montgomery.

“I’m bringing the big guns on to the field so we can build towards the Tri-Nations,” said De Villiers.

He further admitted the Bok coaching staff had spent a lot more time on the scrumming this week, after their somewhat disappointing performance in this department last week.

“I want to be clear about what we have in the front row before we go overseas,” he added.

It certainly looks a stronger Bok team than was the case last week, but they’re expecting a far stronger challenge from the Six Nations champions.

“We’d be foolish to not expect Wales to be stronger this week,” said captain John Smit. “But at the same time, we’re looking to keep on raising our game.”

Gatland has also made four changes to his side, bringing in James Hook at fullback and shuffling his back row.

“We believe the back row will give us a combination capable of improving our performance at the breakdown where we need to improve,” said Gatland on Thursday. “Some of the combinations are new but we are well aware of the capabilities of the boys we have chosen and we know what options they offer us.”

Besides Hook’s selection, Richard Hibbard comes in at hooker, Rhys Thomas starts at prop and Gareth Delve gets a run at number eight. “As a coaching team and a squad this week we have learnt a lot of lessons about how to build from our first defeat together and that will make us stronger …,” said Gatland.

With Wales playing only for pride and respect, one senses the Boks, as World Champions and before facing their biggest rivals in New Zealand and Australia, may have too much fire-power for the injury-hit and deflated Wales team.

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