Muir: We are better prepared this time

2009-11-17 00:00

THERE will hardly be an Englishman in sight when the Springboks take on Saracens in the third game of their European tour at Wembley in London tonight.

The former Springbok loose forward Wikus van Heerden will captain the Saracens team, which features 10 South Africans. There are nine in the starting line-up and a 10th, former Bok and Western Province hooker Schalk Britz, on the bench, while two other internationals, Fijian centre Kameli Ratuvou and Italian prop Carlos Nieto, were also named.

Saracens, a leading English club with a strong South African flavour, has ex-Bok centre Brendan Venter as their director of rugby while Edward Griffiths, who moonlights as a Weekend Witness columnist, is their CEO.

Van Heerden joins Justin Melck and Ernst Joubert in an all-South African backrow, former Sharks centre Brad Barritt is in the midfield, while the halfbacks will be Neil de Kock and Derick Hougaard.

The other South Africans in the starting line-up are lock Mouritz Botha, hooker Ethienne Reynecke and fullback Michael Horak.

Venter, who was angry after being asked to leave the Bok practice yesterday when he popped out of his office to watch the Test squad training, said tonight’s game is a marketing exercise aimed at the many South Africans based in London.

Saracens are unbeaten in the Premiership and Venter said the timing of tonight’s game is not ideal with his main focus on the clash with Wasps on Sunday.

Peter de Villiers has named a second- string Bok side, but a number of players could play their way into the Test side to face Italy on Saturday if the Bok coach opts to rest a couple of his tired seniors ahead of the Irish Test a week later.

Certainly attention will be centred on the all-Free State front-row of CJ van der Linde, Adriaan Strauss and Wian du Preez, while loose forwards Ashley Johnson and Jean Deysel could also challenge for Test places against Italy following the poor form of Ryan Kankowski and the injury to Schalk Burger against France.

Dewald Potgieter will captain the South African side, which shows four changes — the entire front row and the inclusion of Deysel — to the team beaten by Leicester.

The Springboks will be looking for a lively showing, and an emphatic win, after the losses to Leicester and France.

Assistant coach Dick Muir, in charge of the Bok midweek team, said Saracens will provide a major challenge.

“With all those South Africans playing they are certainly going to be a force,” he told reporters.

“They’re seasoned campaigners, some with Test experience. They’re going to pose a big problem.”

But both Muir and Brendan Venter are convinced the Boks will improve on their showing against Leicester.

“Leicester caught them unawares,” said Venter.

“I do believe we are better prepared than we were last time,” Muir added.

Shell-shocked Springbok supporters will be hoping he is right.

 

TEAMS

South Africa

15 Earl Rose, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Heini Adams, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Dewald Potgieter (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.

Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Riaan Viljoen.

Saracens

15 Michael Horak, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Justin Melck, 6 Wikus van Heerden (c), 5 Hugh Vyvyan, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Richard Skuse, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Rhys Gill.

Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Carlos Nieto, 18 George Kruis, 19 Andy Saull, 20 Kevin Barrett, 21 Alex Goode, 22 Rodd Penney.

 

Kick-off: 9.45 pm (SS1 from 9.30 pm).

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