Boks to change half of team

2010-08-17 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers is certain to change almost half his team — and field a new-look backline — for Saturday’s Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks at FNB Stadium in Soweto.

De Villiers, who will name his team today, is expected to make seven alterations to the starting line-up beaten by the Wallabies in the Boks’ last Tri-Nations game in Brisbane, with five new faces in the back division. The only two backs likely to keep their places are wing Bryan Habana and flyhalf Morné Steyn.

A damaged knee cartilege yesterday ruled Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner out of the Test, and with Frans Steyn also sidelined by injury (and general confusion), Gio Aplon is certain to be the new No. 15 in the Bok starting line-up.

Kirchner had a scan on his left knee yesterday after sustaining an injury during the Blue Bulls-Western Province Currie Cup game and he is expected to be out of action for a couple of weeks.

It was expected that Kirchner, who has been solid and brave but largely unspectacular in the Tri-Nations this season, would have been dropped any­way. Certainly Aplon’s pace and elusiveness will add a new dimension to the Boks’ backplay, and while his lack of bulk and height counts against him, the All Blacks, committed to a ball-in-the-hand approach, are not in the business of kicking on fullbacks to test their ability under the high ball.

But the most significant selection will be at scrumhalf, where Ruan Pienaar has been sidelined by a shoulder injury and De Villiers could opt for Francois Hougaard rather than his longtime favourite, Ricky Januarie.

This would be a first Test start at scrumhalf for Hougaard. He has played most of his rugby at scrumhalf, but the Bulls have used him on the wing for the past two seasons and he was selected in that position for this year’s Tri-Nations tour of New Zealand and Australia. He has returned to scrumhalf for a couple of Bulls games since the tour and the Boks are hoping his pace and adventure will help fire the backline.

The switch of Aplon to fullback will open the wing position to the fit-again JP Pietersen.

The suspension of Jaque Fourie for this Test is certain to see the young Juan de Jongh at outside centre, where he has played most of his rugby. Jean de Villiers, over his suspension for a tip tackle and after being used unsuccessfully on the wing in New Zealand, is set to return to his preferred position at inside centre where he will take over from Wynand Olivier.

The changes at forward will see the recall of Sharks tighthead Jannie du Plessis. He has recovered from the calf strain which forced him out of the recent tour and will take over from BJ Botha, who is one of the five players released from the original squad of 29.

The second change to the pack is certain to be on the flank where Juan Smith, who missed the Tri-Nations tour for family reasons, will replace Ryan Kankowski.

Kankowski and fullback Steyn, both injured, the two props, Botha and Beast Mtawarira, and the suspended Fourie are the five released players.

There have been calls for Schalk Burger to shift to number eight in place of the athletic Pierre Spies, whose limitations were exposed on the tour Down Under. This would allow Francois Louw to fill the fetching role off the side of the scrum. But the change is unlikely. Spies is happiest on the hard surfaces of the highveld and De Villiers appears committed to the tried and tested loose trio of Spies, Burger and Smith.

Louw, in the absence of Kankowski, will be used off the bench with lock Flip van Merwe, prop CJ van der Linde and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle the forward replacements. Ricky Januarie (scrumhalf), Butch James (flyhalf) and Wynand Olivier (centre and wing) are the obvious backline substitutes.

Loose forward Dewald Potgieter, who suffered whiplash in the Newlands Currie Cup game, is also certain to be on the sidelines on Saturday.

Lock Danie Rossouw is receiving ongoing treatment for a hip flexor injury sustained last week, but team Doctor Craig Roberts said he is responding well to treatment and should be available for selection.

Possible Bok team: 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 (captain), Gurthrö Steenkamp.

Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Francois Louw, Ricky Januarie, Butch James, Wynand Olivier.

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