Boks return to World Champs’ style of rugby

2008-11-11 00:00

The Springboks’ return to the style of rugby that won them the World Cup has already been noted by opponents, and Scotland coach Frank Hadden doesn’t sound too happy about it ahead of Saturday’s Test match at Murrayfield.

“The Springboks are the most physical team in world rugby and they are a fearful team to play against when they play to that strength,” said Hadden.

“During the Tri-Nations season they did not play so direct and got caught up in a more expansive style that maybe didn’t play to their strength, but against Wales last Saturday you could see that they were back to being direct. That will make them difficult, and I think we can expect a really physical and confrontational approach from them.”

When he was speaking, Hadden didn’t know it yet, but the enormity of his own team’s task got significantly more difficult an hour or so later when Peter de Villiers named his Springbok team for the match.

The only real doubt was that hovering over Bakkies Botha, but the big Bok enforcer has now recovered well enough from the finger-in-the-eye incident against Wales to be ready to face the Scots. He will add considerably to the Bok ability to play to the strengths that Hadden was referring to.

His clean bill of health has enabled De Villiers to name the same 22 for the first time since he took over as Bok coach. This, he said, can be seen as a sign that he has now settled on his best team.

“We know who our best 22 is at the moment. We maybe didn’t play to our full potential against Wales, but these are the best players at the moment and I am sure they will improve on what they did against Wales,” said De Villiers.

Skipper John Smit will equal Os du Randt’s record for a Springbok forward of 80 Bok caps and will be looking for an improved effort on the 20-15 win over Wales, where the Boks started the game impressively before petering out in the second half.

“There is no doubt that we will be looking for a better performance, we will be looking to improve our standard,” said Smit.

“There was a bit of rustiness against Wales, and by that I mean the type of rustiness that comes through lack of continuity. The Welsh game was the start of a new tour and many of the players had not played for five weeks. Some had played in a tough Currie Cup final just two weeks ago.

“It is a long time now since we ended the Tri-Nations season, so it was natural that the players might take a while to gel and get that slick look. But we now have the Welsh test behind us in terms of getting the guys back together and I am sure we will improve against Scotland.”

The decision to retain the same squad means that the two necomers, Heinrich Brussow and Earl Rose, probably won’t be capped on this tour, while other fringe players will also not get a chance to add to their international experience.

Considering that De Villiers was a few months ago understood to be in favour of blooding new players and combinations during this trip, the selection can be taken as an indication of the pressure he is under to get the Boks winning consistently again after a poor southern hemisphere season.

Apart from the unexpected defeat at the venue in 2002, when the Boks under Rudolf Straeuli fielded a second-string combination, Murrayfield has been a happy hunting ground for the Boks.

With the management and leadership again stressing the importance of keeping it tight as they did in Cardiff, it should continue to be so this weekend.

Springbok team: Conrad Jantjes, JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtwarira. Bench: Brian Mujati, Gurthro Steenkamp, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Ricky Januarie, Frans Steyn, Jaque Fourie.

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