Div puts heavies on bench

2011-09-09 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers has omitted the exciting Patrick Lambie and loaded his bench with front-row forwards for the Rugby World Cup Pool D opener against Wales in Wellington on Sunday.

De Villiers has selected predictably and conservatively, opting for experience and players more suited to booting the ball than running with it.

With lock Bakkies Botha ruled out with an Achilles’ tendon injury, De Villiers named the expected starting line-up. Bulls’ lock Danie Rossouw was a readymade replacement for Botha but, with the abrasive Bismarck du Plessis named on the bench, the Boks will start against Wales without their two most physical forwards.

The surprises came on the bench where De Villiers has named a 5:2 split, and included an entire second front-row in CJ van der Linde, Bismarck du Plessis and Gurthrö Steenkamp. What is certain is that John Smit will only be used as a hooker.

The decision to include five forwards among the replacements cost Lambie — or centre Juan de Jongh or Gio Aplon — a place on the bench, leaving Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf and wing) and Butch James (flyhalf and inside centre) as the backline substitutes.

Frans Steyn, who looked hopelessly out of condition, and pulled a hamstring in the Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies last month, returns at fullback and the Springbok coaches are obviously looking to his prodigious boot to keep the Welsh under pressure. Still, in the absence of Lambie, there is no obvious cover for the burly fullback off the bench.

The decision to play a tactical kicking game under lights — and possibly in the wet — also resulted in Morné Steyn’s selection at flyhalf ahead of Butch James, who certainly would offer more on attack and defence.

While the starting team contains no surprises, there are areas of concern. Flank Schalk Burger returns for his first game in nearly three months and may lack match sharpness, while two other players, wing Bryan Habana and Victor Matfield, are also nursing hamstring strains and have missed practices this week.

But most worrying were reports last night that Bakkies Botha’s injury is more serious than was initially thought and there is a possibility that his World Cup dream may be over.

De Villiers has named the most experienced team in Springbok history, including a total of 815 caps.

There are five changes to the team which beat the All Blacks 18-5 in Port Elizabeth last month with captain Smit, loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira, flank Burger and fullback Steyn recalled and Rossouw replacing Botha.

The 22 contains 16 players who were part of the victorious 2007 squad with 11 in the starting 15 on that memorable day in Paris.

The announcement of the Bok squad initially confused journalists as the 22 names were read out with Smit the last name out of the hat. But gradually it became apparent that a starting 15 had indeed been officially named and that Smit was not captaining the team from the bench.

Explaining his choice of so many heavies on the bench, De Villiers said that he wanted to “try out a few things in our first game.”

“We have a very strong bench,” said De Villiers. “You make the decisions on where your strengths are and that has determined the make-up of the bench.”

SPRINGBOK TEAM

15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 V

ictor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp,

18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Johann Muller, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Butch James.

Kick-off is at 10.30 am, (SA time).

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