Sharks dominate Boks squad

2012-08-16 00:00

THERE is a distinct Shark flavour to the South African Test team which will play in Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Newlands.

Keegan Daniel, starting his first Test for the Boks, has predictably replaced the injured Pierre Spies in the back row as the Sharks, with eight players in the starting line, and six in the pack, are rewarded for their late flourish to the Super Rugby season.

Coach Heyneke Meyer has opted for provincial combinations in the pack and at halfback in an attempt to bring some cohesion to the team.

Daniel joins team-mates Marcell Coetzee and Willem Alberts in the backrow and there are three more Sharks in the front-row of Beast Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck.

There will be a pair of Stormers’ locks in Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth, who have both overcome their injury problems, while Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn is partnered with his provincial team-mate, Francois Hougaard, at halfback.

Sharks supporters should not be greedy, but the inclusion of the more creative Pat Lambie on the bench and not at fullback will surprise many.

Also making a return is the 25-year-old Frans Steyn, who will become the 23rd player to reach 50 Test caps for South Africa. The Sharks centre missed the third England Test in June because of his wedding.

Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo has also been recalled following the injury to his team-mate JP Pietersen.

Bekker, the tall lock who is seen as the natural successor to Victor Matfield, replaces Juandré Kruger and plays his first Test in more than two years.

Meyer said that fielding combinations in key areas would help the Boks.

“We’ve now been together for the June Tests and have had a good week to prepare, but we are still rather new as a team and it’s good that the players know each other.”

“Andries [Bekker] was always in our plans and it was a setback to lose him in June, while Lwazi [Mvovo] has been impressive this year and I know he can fill the huge boots of JP. We’re still a young team when it comes to experience, but this is Test rugby and there is no place to hide.

There are two potential debutants on the bench in former Michaelhouse and Sharks prop Pat Cilliers and tall utility back JJ Engelbrecht.

“We decided to go for these two because of their utility value — Pat Cilliers can scrum on both sides and JJ covers outside centre and wing, which JP Pietersen used to do for us,” said Meyer.

The Boks coach said he had been honest with the 100 kg Daniel and told him he had to prove he had the physicality to play Test rugby.

“It is a step up for Keegan, but he has been playing well and I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do at this level. I did consider moving Willem Alberts to No. 8 so that Jacques Potgieter could come in on the blindside flank and give us more ball carriers.

“But it’s going to be a hard, physical game on Saturday and we will be looking to Keegan to bring that little bit extra that can make a difference. It’s going to be a big challenge, but this is his chance to prove he can do it.

“He was good against a physical team like the Chiefs and also against the top defensive team, the Stormers.”

Meyer also said he had every confidence in flyhalf Morné Steyn and said he was fresh and enthusiastic after his three-week break. “I may put my foot in it, but I think Morné is going to have a great game. He is a professional and he knows that if he doesn’t play to a high standard he has to deal with the criticism. He can and has, but I think the break has come at the right time for him.”

Meanwhile, the Springbok’s third-choice hooker, Chiliboy Ralepelle, was yesterday forced to withdraw from the Springbok squad because of a knee injury which will sideline him for a fortnight. He has been replaced by Stormers hooker Tiaan Liebenberg.

SPRINGBOKS SQUAD

15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Bryan Habana, 13. Jean de Villiers (captain), 12. Frans Steyn, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Francois Hougaard, 8. Keegan Daniel, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira Replacements: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Flip van der Merwe, 19. Jacques Potgieter, 20. Ruan Pienaar, 21. Pat Lambie, 22. JJ Engelbrecht

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