De Villiers sticks to the script for Wallabies Test

2009-08-05 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers kept strictly to the script in naming an unchanged starting line-up for Saturday’s Tri-Nations international against the Wallabies at Newlands, in Cape Town.

De Villiers made just one change to his match squad of 22 with Ruan Pienaar, over his ankle injury, named on the bench. Two of De Villiers’s favourite players, Ricky Januarie and Adi Jacobs, retain their places on the bench and Bulls centre Wynand Olivier drops out of the squad.

The Bok coach had hinted at a possible change to the starting line-up with the return of Pienaar, his preferred choice at flyhalf, when he said on Monday that Steyn could “improve his game a lot”.

“He can get his line away much more quickly, he can create much more space, so there are a lot of areas in which he can improve. That he has a brilliant foot won’t blind us to think that he can deliver total rugby for you. There are still a lot of things that he can do, but he did kick well [against the All Blacks at the weekend].”

This sent the media to the north into a flutter, however, it would have taken a brave De Villiers to drop Steyn after his record 31 points in Durban. The Bok coach appears to have learnt from the public relations disasters of the British Lions series and is following a far more sensible and conservative line, both in his selections and in dealing with the media.

De Villiers is in a difficult position. He press-ganged Pienaar into moving from scrumhalf to flyhalf, but the irresistible kicking form of Steyn — rather than his general all-round game — is now forcing the hand of the Bok coach.

Pienaar’s day will come again, said De Villiers.

“Ruan Pienaar has always been part of our plans, but I think it would be an injustice to those players who did so well on Saturday to make changes.

“It is an easy team to choose because of the way the players are performing. Players that lose their place because of injury or suspension [Jacobs, Pienaar and Schalk Burger] are finding it difficult to get back into the team, but that is healthy.”

De Villiers said that centre Jaque Fourie was in bed with flu, but that there were no other fitness concerns.

He said that the Wallabies would provide a totally different Test to the All Blacks.

“They are far more patient with the ball and keep it for long periods. They will also offer a different challenge in the scrums and the line-outs.”

But De Villiers said the emphasis would be on the Springboks playing their own game.

“About 80% of our preparation is on our game, and then we might make some small changes depending on the opposition. The scrum is a challenge against the Wallabies because they are often prepared to scrum illegally and risk giving away penalties, rather than allowing themselves to be dominated.”

Bok captain John Smit said that consistency in selection and keeping to an unchanged team made preparation for the Test far easier.

“It’s a pretty good place to be because we have so much experience, with over 600 Test caps, and we can keep working on what we have been doing over the past few weeks.

“But we know we have to step up again on Saturday. The Wallabies have shown a huge improvement over the past 12 months, particularly in their scrummaging so this will be another big challenge.”

Smit said that the margin between the three Tri-Nations teams was so small — “any one of these teams can win on any given Saturday”.

“There are so many traps you can fall into. You might play just about the perfect game, but one or two errors can really cost you at this level. We have won two out of two but there are still four Tests to go. We will have to go out again and empty the tank.”

SPRINGBOK TEAM

15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Andries Bekker, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Adi Jacobs

KICK-OFF: 5 pm.

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