Le Roux may well provide the X-factor

2013-06-08 00:00

CENTRE and captain Jean de Villiers passed his late fitness test yesterday but Willem Alberts failed his, and the Sharks flank has been withdrawn from the Springbok team to face Italy in the Incoming Series opener at King’s Park this evening.

Uncapped backrower Arno Botha, who has spent most of the Super Rugby season on the Bulls bench, will take over from Alberts in the starting line-up. Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee, who played in all 12 Springbok Tests last year, has replaced Botha on the reserve bench.

Botha joins fullback Willie le Roux and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak as the third new cap in the starting line-up.

“It’s never ideal losing an experienced member the day before a Test and I feel for Willem,” Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said yesterday.

“But I also have the utmost confidence in Arno and Marcell, two of the most exciting young loose forwards in South Africa.”

Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said that Alberts, who has missed most of the Super Rugby season following shoulder surgery, had picked up an abdominal strain early in the week. “He should be ready for next weekend’s Test against Scotland in Nelspruit.”

Captain De Villiers, speaking at the pre-Test press conference in Umhlanga yesterday, said the Springboks were determined to keep on improving, particularly at the breakdown.

“Lessons have been learnt through the year and we’re definitely better prepared now than we were 12 months ago.”

He said the Boks’ record of 10 successive wins against Italy would count for nothing.

“This is a good Italy side and we won’t underestimate them.”

De Villiers also backed Meyer’s bold backline selection with the inclusion of Le Roux, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht and Vermaak suggesting the Boks will play a more expansive game.

“If you look at the last year, when did Heyneke have an opportunity to make a selection like this? He was under pressure to win from the start.”

De Villiers said Le Roux could “spark” a team as he had shown with the Cheetahs this year.

While the Boks will field an untried backline, there is a familiar look to the pack.

“I’m happy we have been able to retain the core of the pack for continuity,” said Meyer, “but I’m very excited to see what this new-look backline can do.”

The Springboks will be tested by the organised Italians in the set piece while they have a world-class number eight in Sergio Parisse, who combines physical commitment with genuine flair.

“The focus is on what we want to achieve, but we respect the Italians,” said Meyer. “They beat Ireland and France this year and just lost to England (18-11) in London.

“They have always been exceptionally strong up front and will test us, especially at scrum time, and they are very well led by Sergio Parisse.

“They also come from a season of playing together in the Six Nations and we have had just three days to prepare for this Test.”

But Meyer said the rugby public would demand a win.

“This is South Africa, we are playing at home, so we have no choice but to win every game and win the series,” he said.

The King’s Park crowd, after the Sharks’ disappointing Super Rugby season, will hope to see a stylish home win.

New fullback Willie le Roux may well provide the X-factor but they will want the Springboks to achieve the forward domination that will allow the backs to run through the full alphabet of their skills.


South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke Mclean, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Antonio Pavanello, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi

Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Joshua Furno, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Tommaso Iannone.

Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France). Kick-off: 5.15 pm.

Curtain-raiser: Scotland vs Samoa (2.15 pm).

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