Januarie shock for the Boks

2008-06-05 00:00

It is understood that Januarie has been punished for abusing alcohol on the team’s day off on Wednesday, and he has been suspended for one match, with Bolla Conradie the shock selection to replace his Stormers team-mate at scrumhalf. Conradie was the second-string halfback at the Stormers, and his selection into the initial squad ahead of the Sharks’ Rory Kockott was a major surprise.

Coach Peter de Villiers, in announcing Januarie’s one-match suspension, said he was not going to comment further on what Januarie did. He said the matter had been dealt with in an in-house manner and that it would remain private.

“Ricky broke our team protocol and ethical code so he has been disciplined internally and suspended for one match,” said De Villiers.

“He is not leaving Bloemfontein, he is remaining with the team, and will be part of our plans again on Sunday when we start preparing for the match in Pretoria.”

The elevation of Conradie means that Ruan Pienaar gets a late call to play off the bench. It is mind-boggling though to think that Pienaar had to rely on this sort of intervention to get into the match day squad if you consider his utility value. The last time the Boks played a Test match, which coincidentally was against Wales in Cardiff last November, Pienaar was at fullback.

The experience of playing a new position in a good win in an away Test should surely have given Pienaar a leg-up, but it appears that, like his fellow Shark utility back Francois Steyn, he is on the outer at the moment, with De Villiers apparently determined to put his own stamp on the team rather than take the safer route of building on the foundation laid by success at last year’s World Cup.

As anticipated, there are several World Cup winners who will either be watching this match from the stands or from the bench. Victor Matfield, Percy Montgomery, CJ van der Linde and Danie Rossouw will all be among the reserves in Bloemfontein.

De Villiers said that the omission of Montgomery and Matfield was because they arrived back late from overseas. He agreed that Butch James, who has been selected, had arrived back at the same time as Montgomery and Matfield, but the players understood why he had made the call.

Some of his comments about Matfield at yesterday’s team announcement press conference were nothing short of downright confusing. For instance, in lauding Matfield’s input from the sidelines, he said that Matfield had made more of a contribution from the side of the field than he would have if he had been on the field. Is he saying that the world’s top rated lock would make a better coach than a player?

For the experienced players, another De Villiers comment would have been particularly chilling: “There is a time to come and a time to go, and some of the players may be discovering that the time to go comes sooner than expected”.

Some of his supporters claim that may not have been what he meant to say, but in discussing Matfield’s omission he also pointed to his four-year plan and the need to look ahead, so it is not really so ambiguous. Matfield’s place in the squad seems safe for now, but it appears reasonable to assume from De Villiers’s statements that he does not expect the lock to be around until 2011. Andries Bekker, the in-form Stormers lock, plays ahead of Matfield, with Conrad Jantjes starting ahead of Montgomery.

Springbok team: Conrad Jantjes, Tonderai Chavhanga, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Bolla Conradie, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Luke Watson, Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Brian Mujati, John Smit (captain), Gurthro Steenkamp. Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Ruan Pienaar, Peter Grant, Percy Montgomery.

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