Fresh Bok line-up expecting a tough challenge from Leicester

2009-11-06 00:00

THE under-prepared Springboks, fielding a host of rookies, will have their hands full when they take on the Leicester Tigers in the opening game of their European tour at Welford Road tonight.

Leicester will be missing five England caps, but they were still able to name a team including six internationals.

Missing are the back-row of Tom Croft, Lewis Moody and Jordan, lock Louis Deacon and centre Dan Hipkiss, but the Boks, who only arrived on Wednesday, will still face a talented home team playing in front of a capacity crowd.

Leicester will be led by All Black Aaron Mauger, usually a centre but playing at flyhalf tonight. He will have another All Black in Scott Hamilton at fullback, while Lote Tuqiri, who was sacked by the Wallabies and joined Leicester this week, will be on the bench.

Coach Richard Cockerill has selected the same scrummaging unit which reportedly shunted Northampton about the park last weekend, and that is not good news for the Boks who have had only a couple of training sessions. Facing them will be an all international front-row of Marcos Ayerza, Mefin Davies and Martin Castrogiovanni while coach Martin Johnson has released England lock Ben Kay for the game.

It is a step into the unknown for the Springboks with many of the players together for the first time. The Springboks have an experienced tight five, but a young, untested loose trio and a backline which will obviously take time to gel in the unfamiliar and what will almost certainly be heavy, wet conditions.

Ruan Pienaar, who has travelled from flyhalf to fullback to scrumhalf and now back to flyhalf, will be opposite Mauger and he will have to settle quickly if his young backline is to make an impact.

Leicester, who have strong links with South African rugby and were recently coached by Heyneke Meyer, lie fourth in the Premier League.

Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir, who has been in charge of the South Africans’ preparations, said yesterday that despite not having many players available, Leicester have a strong team.

“The Tigers have great depth and that is evident in the selection,” said Muir. “They have gone for consistency up front and we will have to be prepared for a tough battle. The outcome of this match is going to be determined up front, especially since it is expected to be cold and wet for the match.”

Muir said the fact that Mauger was playing at flyhalf was significant.

“Mauger is a great player and they have obviously opted for his experience at 10 with Toby Flood injured. With a young centre pair they will be relying on Mauger to steady things, which is not unexpected.”

Muir added that he is not surprised to see Tuqiri’s name on the team list.

“Lote has not had much game time recently so we expected him to be in the 22. He is a quality player and I am sure they will get him on to the park. We will have to keep a close eye on him because his strength and finishing power are well known.”

Muir said he is happy with the Springboks’ preparations for the match.

“We had a good session here yesterday and wrapped up with a captain’s run today. The guys are raring to go because this is a big occasion for many of them. It’s not only about guys making their Springbok debuts, but also about all of these players pushing for inclusion in the Test side.

“There is a lot to play for and I am confident the enthusiasm and eagerness will translate on to the pitch.”

Mauger believes his side have an excellent chance of toppling the Boks, but says that matching the South Africans physically is imperative if the Tigers are to win.

“It’s a huge occasion for the club to be facing the world champions, but if we play well enough, we’re in with a chance,” Mauger told reporters. “They have to be matched physically, and it won’t be easy.

“They have some good athletes and good ball-carriers. The way they are hardened and conditioned to play the game will make it difficult for us, so we have got to deny them the ball and try to control the game.”

But it will also be a testing challenge for the Bok second-stringers, and unless they are up for a bruising contest, it will be a long night.

TEAMS

Springboks

Earl Rose, Odwa Ndungane, Juan de Jongh, Wynand Olivier, Jongi Nokwe, Ruan Pienaar, Heini Adams, Ashley Johnson, Dewald Potgieter, Davon Raubenheimer, Andries

Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Jannie du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle (capt.), Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: Bandise Maku, Heinke van der Merwe, Alistair Hargreaves, Jean Deysel, Francois Hougaard, Meyer Bosman, Riaan Viljoen

Leicester

Scott Hamilton, Lucas Amorosino, Andy Forsyth, Manu Tuilagi, Johne Murphy, Aaron Mauger (capt), Ben Youngs, Brett Deacon, Ben Pienaar, Geoff Parling, Ben Kay, Calum Green, Martin Castrogiovanni, Mefin Davies, Marcos Ayerza.

Replacements: George Chuter, Dan Cole, Tom Armes, Dan Hemingway James Grindal, Greig Tonks, Lote Tuqiri.

Kickoff: 21:30 (SA time). TV: SuperSport 1

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