De Villiers unlikely to take Noakes’ advice on Boks

2009-10-31 00:00

THE advice of Tim Noakes will be ignored and the Springboks will take their strongest available squad on their tour of Europe next month.

Bok coach Peter de Villiers will tonight name 37 players for the three-Tests — against France, Ireland and Italy — and two mid-week matches and all his battle-weary veterans, at the fag end of the most demanding of seasons, will be included.

Sports scientist Noakes has warned that the Springboks will face a “nightmare 2010” if the country’s leading players are not given a break before they resume playing in next season’s Super 14.

Noakes said after the Currie Cup semi-finals that it was patently obvious that players like John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez needed time off.

He said that players who had dragged themselves through the Super 14, the British Lions tour, the Tri-Nations and then the Currie Cup needed at least an eight-week break. Either they should be left at home during the European tour or they should miss the opening four or five weeks of the Super 14 next year. De Villiers will certainly select them tonight while the various franchises, who have spent millions on the players, will want their pound of flesh in the Super 14 and they are unlikely to be given time off.

“The Bok team is on a knife edge,” a gloomy Noakes said. “Next year will be one of the worst seasons in Springbok rugby unless something is done about the year-end tour. We will get smacked in the Tri-Nations. The same can be said for the Super 14. The Bulls will not win the competition if their Boks go on tour and the Sharks will have a poor season.”

But De Villiers will name the famous and the familiar. He has only to replace fullback Frans Steyn, centre Jean de Villiers (both now playing overseas) and injured flank Juan Smith for the Tests, but he will spread his net among the emerging youth to find the new generation of players and help transform his squad for the mid-week games.

Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner is likely to replace Steyn, with one of Adi Jacobs, who has looked rusty and had a poor Currie Cup semi-final, Wynand Olivier or Meyer Bosman included at centre with Schalk Burger at flank in his Test line-up.

But it is his selection of the back-up players for the midweek games against Leicester and Saracens that will provide most debate. And, with utility back Earl Rose, one of De Villiers’ favourites but often overlooked by the Lions, again likely to feature, it is clear that predicting the squad on form is little more than a lottery.

De Villiers’s handling of Ruan Pienaar will be of most interest. The Sharks have returned the talented but confused Pienaar to scrumhalf, but De Villiers regards him as a flyhalf and it will be no surprise to find him playing in that position in the mid-week games.

Most of the players who made up the Tri-Nations squad are expected to be retained, but the injury to Chiliboy Ralepelle could result in the inclusion of Bulls’ third-choice hooker Bandise Maku in one of the major surprises.

Among the other young players who are challenging for a place are Free State wings Lionel Mapoe and Jongi Nokwe, Province centre Juan de Jongh and fullback Joe Pietersen, Griqua scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, Bulls lock Wilhelm Steenkamp, loose forwards Jean Deysel, Ashley Johnson, Jonathan Mokuena and the young Free State props Wian du Preez and WP Nel.

It is an important tour for the Bok coach. If Noakes is right, and history suggests he will be, then the cynically overplayed Springboks will suffer next year and De Villiers needs to find a crop of high quality replacements quickly.

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