Morné Steyn back at flyhalf

2011-08-17 00:00

PAT Lambie has leapfrogged Gio Aplon and will start at fullback in Saturday’s Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth.

Lambie, who will play his first game for the Boks on South African soil, takes over from the injured Frans Steyn, with Aplon, who came on as the fullback replacement against the Wallabies in Durban at the weekend, dropping out of the squad.

Coach Peter de Villiers has made five changes to the team beaten at King’s Park as he tests various combinations in the Springboks’ final international before the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Morné Steyn is given a chance to answer his critics and returns for Butch James at flyhalf while the Boks will field a new-look front row with Bismarck du Plessis taking over from captain John Smit at hooker and Gurthrö Steenkamp, desperately short of match practice after months on the sidelines, replacing Beast Mtawarira at loosehead.

The fifth change is on the flank where the powerful Sharks backrower Willem Alberts, another fighting his way back from injury, takes over from Danie Rossouw.

De Villiers had initially planned to use Lambie, the runner, and Steyn, the kicker, in tandem against the All Blacks in Wellington late last month. The plan was to field Lambie at fullback, but then switch him to flyhalf in attacking situations. But the Bok coach changed his mind on the eve of the Test and Steyn played the Test out of position at fullback while Lambie was at flyhalf.

The injury to Frans Steyn has provided De Villiers with the chance to return to the experiment and this time Lambie will have No. 15 on his back while the inclusion of Morné Steyn solves the goalkicking problem.

De Villiers said yesterday, “I may be wrong, but I get the feeling that goal kicks will play a big role in this World Cup and with his 90% accuracy rate we would stupid not to give Morné a chance to show us what he can do with all the top players back.”

Steyn, relieved to be given a final chance before the RWC squad is announced, told reporters he is delighted to be back in a settled and experienced Bok backline.

“It will be great to have Fourie du Preez back on my inside and I will also have the experience of Jean de Villiers on my outside,” he said.

James, after a solid outing against the Wallabies, seems certain to go to the RWC as one of the two specialist flyhalves, while Lambie could nail down the fullback spot on Saturday.

“We all know what Gio (Aplon) brings to our game,” said De Villiers. “He is a really elusive player. But Lambie is a really special player and I would like to give him a chance to play in the top team as a fullback and let him show us what he can do.”

Victor Mafield takes over as captain from Smit, who was always going to make way for Bismarck du Plessis in this Test after starting at hooker in the three previous internationals.

De Villiers said Smit has shown he is ready for the RWC.

“But it would be remiss of me not to give Bismarck a chance to show what he can do in this game,” said the coach.

“This was a plan we made back in May. Bissie will verify that. I am happy that John got 240 consecutive minutes thus far, and he has really bounced back after starting slowly in the first game in Sydney.”

De Villiers has opted for a 5:2 split between forwards and backs on the bench and has a full front row among the replacements.

“We want to give Gurthrö a chance to get game time, but we saw how good Beast [Mtawarira] was last week and we felt we would like to have the option of a fresh row to come on in case it is needed.”

De Villiers said the Test is an important one for Alberts who has been battling a shoulder injury in recent months.

The coach said Alberts will be a key figure at the World Cup. “He showed what he could do on the UK tour last year. We need him to come good.”

Alberts’s inclusion has seen Sharks flank Jean Deysel drop out of the 22-man squad, but he would be an obvious choice for the RWC if Alberts fails to convince the selectors that he has fully recovered from injury.

Springbok team: Patrick Lambie, JP Petersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brüssow, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthrö Steenkamp.

Replacements: John Smit, Tendai Mawarira, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Ashley Johnson, Francois Hougaard, Butch James.

Kick-off: 5 pm.

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