Half of Bok team could change

2010-06-15 00:00

COACH Peter de Villiers could make as many as seven changes to his team, but veteran lock Victor Matfield will soldier on and captain the Springboks in Saturday’s first Test against Italy in Witbank.

The absence of Stormers’ injured No. 5 lock, Andries Bekker, and the hamstring strain suffered by captain John Smit will result in Matfield being retained in the second row.

Coach Peter de Villiers had initially planned to rest the weary Matfield against Italy. The Bulls lock played in 14 Super 14 games and was then rushed to Cardiff to replace Bekker in the below-strength Bok team against Wales, before turning out against the French in Cape Town at the weekend.

De Villiers could change almost half his team for Witbank. Team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed yesterday that Smit suffered a grade one hamstring strain in the warm-up to Saturday’s Test. He said the injury is slight and Smit could be ready to face the Italians in the second Test in East London in 10 days.

Chiliboy Rallepele, who was impressive in the second half against the French, will start at hooker and the Bulls’ Badise Maku yesterday joined the squad to provide cover off the bench.

There will also be a new centre pairing against the Italians. Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie have been released from the Bok squad this week and Jean de Villiers and Butch James, at inside centre, are expected to be in the midfield.

Lock Danie Rossouw, who is playing some of the most effective rugby of his long career, has also been given the weekend off and he will be replaced by either Flip van der Merwe or Bakkies Botha, who is returning from suspension and is short of match time.

“Danie has played a lot of rugby in recent weeks and this is an opportunity to give him some recovery time,” said De Villiers. “He is the first choice lock at the moment, but we are lucky to have Bakkies Botha available among the three locks that we can consider for the Test.

“Jaque [Fourie] and Wynand [Olivier] have also played a lot of rugby and we are so fortunate to have so many top centres available.”

Flank Schalk Burger could also miss the Test because of injury.

Roberts said the flank had “rolled” his ankle late in Saturday’s Test and Dewald Potgieter is an obvious replacement, while Ryan Kankowski could make a rare start in place of Pierre Spies at number eight for the Boks.

But it is the Springbok scrum that remains a concern. Tighthead BJ Botha, both against Wales and France, failed to provide the expected solid platform and Sharks prop Jannie de Plessis deserves a start. Significantly, however, Free Stater CJ van der Linde was yesterday recalled to the squad.

“We always said we would use these two Italian Tests to ease our minds regarding certain selection questions,” De Villiers told reporters. “We’re not rebuilding, but just rearranging the furniture a bit.

“John Smit’s injury is a big blow and the calmness he brings to the team is immense. That’s why we couldn’t go on to the field without him against France.”

But De Villiers said that Matfield has shown his leadership qualities for both the Bulls and the Boks.

“Victor is a great leader. He led the side when we beat the All Blacks in Dunedin for the first time and he did a great job in the second half against France. He has also proved himself many times as a leader in the Super 14 and Currie Cup.”

Meanwhile, tighthead Jannie du Plessis, a medical doctor, saved a rugby supporter’s life shortly after helping the Boks to their win at Newlands on Saturday.

The man was choking when Du Plessis, leaving the post-match function, arrived and thrust his fingers deep into his throat to remove a piece of meat.

“I could see the man could not speak or breathe,” Du Plessis told News24.

“He was getting blue around the lips and was completely pale. I got a huge fright, but I am just grateful it worked out well and he’s alive.”

Possible Bok starting line-up:

15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Jean de Villiers, 12. Butch James, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Ricky Januarie, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Francois Louw, 6. Dewald Potgieter, 5. Victor Matfield (captain), 4. Flip van der Merwe, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Chiliboy Rallepele, 1. Gurthrö Steenkamp.

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