Muller steps into the breach

2009-06-30 00:00

SHARKS lock and captain Johann Muller, who was bitterly disappointed to be omitted from Peter de Villiers’s initial Springbok squad, seems certain to start Saturday’s third Test against the British Lions at Ellis Park.

Muller was yesterday drafted into the Springbok squad when it emerged earlier in the day that Bakkies Botha had been suspended for two weeks and Andries Bekker had torn a cartilage in his knee during the second Test against the British Lions at Loftus.

A third lock, Danie Rossouw, was knocked silly by Brian O’Driscoll’s head-high challenge and he is being closely monitored and will follow the standard concussion protocol.

Muller, who last played for the Boks in 2007, was part of the South African training squad that faced a Namibian invitation XV in Windhoek last month.

Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said that centre Jean de Villiers and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, both with shoulder injuries, were examined by a specialist in Pretoria yesterday and have been cleared for selection.

Bok coach De Villiers’s reputation for obstinacy will be tested today — when he names his team for the third Test — and we will see whether he is willing to accept change and select Morné Steyn ahead of Ruan Pienaar as his first-choice flyhalf. De Villiers has resolutely backed the talented Pienaar, but Steyn was in irrepressible form in the 16 minutes he was on the field in the second Test and he deserves to start at Ellis Park on Saturday. Certainly his omission would lead to much wailing in Pretoria and would be difficult to justify. Steyn has shown that he can run, tackle and pass and he is a match-winner with the boot.

De Villiers also has a problem with centre Jaque Fourie, another who deserves to start. Certainly De Villiers appears rusty and his shoulder injury might persuade the Bok coach to start with Fourie at outside centre with Adi Jacobs on the inside. Apart from replacements of suspended players — Muller for Botha and Heinrich Brüssow for Schalk Burger — the pack will be unchanged.

Meanwhile, Morné Steyn said he thought captain John Smit would turn to Frans Steyn for the final penalty, which won Saturday’s Test with the last kick of the game.

Morné Steyn said he was confident he could kick the 55-metre penalty, but said he had seen Frans Steyn moving forward to take the kick.

“He is the long-range specialist and I thought John might give him the ball,” the Bulls flyhalf told reporters. “But I wanted that kick. I knew I would put it over. I live for kicking those long ones.

“I live and play rugby for days and moments like that. It was one of the best strikes ever. It’s just wonderful I could contribute in that way to a series triumph over the Lions.

“Maybe for the next 12 years they’ll be talking about my kick as we have been talking about Jeremy Guscott’s drop-kick in 1997.”

 

Possible Bok starting line-up for Ellis Park (3pm):

Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Jaque Foure (or Jean de Villiers), Adi Jacobs, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield, Johann Muller, John Smit (c), Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira.

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