Bok duty likely for Pietersen, Du Plessis boys

2010-08-07 00:00

THERE will be no panic selection but at least half-a-dozen changes to the Springbok team can be expected for the Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks in Soweto on August 21.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers met with national selectors Peter Jooste and Ian McIntosh this week and the 26-man squad for the home leg of the Tri-Nations will be named tomorrow.

Likely to be recalled to the squad after injury are the Sharks’ JP Pietersen and the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, and Free State flank Juan Smith. Western Province centre Jean de Villiers, after his suspension, will also rejoin the squad which will feature most of the players who toured Down Under.

What is certain is that there will not be a massive clean-out after the disappointing defeats in New Zealand and Australia. The selectors are likely to stay with the experienced core of the team to see how they perform on home soil — and, after a couple of weeks’ rest, reassess Springbok rugby at the end of the Tri-Nations and before the Grand Slam tour of the UK in November.

But a couple of South Africa’s youngsters will start against the All Blacks. One should be at scrumhalf now that the injured Ruan Pienaar, who played in the last Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane, has joined Fourie du Preez on the sidelines.

Tipped to take over is the Blue Bulls’ Francois Hougaard, who has played most of his rugby at scrumhalf, but has spent the past two years on the wing in Pretoria.

There is also a hole in the midfield, at least for the Test against the All Blacks, with Jaque Fourie serving a suspension. Juan de Jongh, the young Stormers midfielder, is a natural outside centre, but he was moved to No 12 this year in the Super 14.

His selection at outside centre would allow the selectors to partner him with veteran Jean de Villiers in the midfield.

The selectors could also recall JP Pietersen on the wing and this would allow them to switch Gio Aplon to fullback. Zane Kirchner, the present fullback, has been one of the few Springboks to play with any consistency, but Aplon would add a sharp counterattacking edge to the Boks’ backplay.

The one obvious change at forward is on the flank where specialist No 7 flank Juan Smith will take over from number eight Ryan Kankowski, who played out of position against the Wallabies.

Smith, one of the best jumpers in world rugby at the tail, would also add to the Springboks’ lineout options.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who has had no game time since undergoing neck surgery in April, is likely to be eased back into action, but De Villiers now has a choice of three tightheads with Jannie du Plessis, BJ Botha and CJ van der Linde vying for the spot.

The possible starting line-up against the All Blacks is:

Gio Aplon, JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Jannie du Plessis, John Smit (c), Gurthro Steenkamp.

The squad members, who were only going to gather in Johannesburg next weekend, are now assembling on Tuesday.

The Springboks’ remaining Tri-Nations Tests are:

August 21 vs New Zealand, Johannesburg

August 28 vs Australia, Pretoria

September 4 vs Australia, Bloemfontein Kickoff: 5 pm (both games)

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