Spies to sit out European tour

2009-11-03 00:00

PIERRE Spies, the athletic Springbok and Blue Bulls number eight, is out of the tour of Europe after injuring his hand in the weekend Currie Cup final in Pretoria.

Ryan Kankowski now seems certain to start at number eight in the three Tests in Europe while Sharks flank Jean Deysel has replaced Spies in the tour squad of 37.

Anthony Mackaiser, SA Ruby communications manager, confirmed Spies’ withdrawal last night.

“Spies has broken a finger and is out of the tour,” he told The Witness. “Jean Deysel will be called up, but I’m not sure if this will result in any changes to the Springbok team for Friday [against Leicester].”

The injury to Spies appears to have spiked Bok coach Peter de Villiers’s plans to drop the excellent Free State flank Heinrich Brüssow from his Test side to meet France in Toulouse at the end of next week.

De Villiers was apparently keen to revamp the Bok loose trio for the Test and omit the highly-regarded Brüssow in a move that would have dismayed the South African rugby public. It appears that De Villiers wanted to field Burger in place of Brüssow, move Spies to flank to replace the injured Juan Smith and promote Kankowski to number eight.

But the withdrawal of Spies late yesterday will result in a change of plan with De Villiers again likely to field Brüssow and Burger on the flanks — as he did in the Springboks’ last Test against the all Blacks in Hamilton — with Kankowski at number eight.

It became clear early yesterday that De Villiers was considering omitting Brüssow when he named his Springbok squad for the first match of their European tour, this Friday night’s fixture against the Leicester Tigers at Welford Road. This patchwork outfit of something old and something new leaves this morning for England and Brüssow has been named on the flank.

The shadow Bok Test team, the 15 remaining Boks, are meanwhile staying behind in Johannesburg to spend the week preparing for the French international before leaving for Paris next Tuesday.

It is expected that Brüssow will still play against Leicester on Friday but will then join up with the Test team when they arrive in France early next week.

In another move that seems to defy form, the rusty Adi Jacobs has been lined up to replace inside centre Jean de Villiers who is now playing club rugby in Ireland.

Jacobs is staying on with the Springboks in Johannesburg while both specialist inside centres, Meyer Bosman and Wynand Olivier, leave with the squad today and will be involved against Leicester.

Ironically, both Kankowski and out-of-touch centre Jacobs battled to make any impact for the Sharks in the closing weeks of the Currie Cup, but now seem certain to be included in the Springbok starting line-up to face the French.

It comes as a major surprise that De Villiers was considering dropping the consistent, foraging Brüssow. The Free State flank, in his first season of international rugby, has made a massive impact against the best players in the world and, together with Spies and Burger, formed a lively loose trio when the Boks beat the All Blacks in their last Test to secure the Tri-Nations title in Hamilton.

In the only other change to the Bok Test side, the Bulls’ Zane Kirchner will take over from Frans Steyn, now playing in France, at fullback.

The 22-man squad selected for the Leicester match this week includes all nine the uncapped newcomers while Sharks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar finds himself back at flyhalf and Earl Rose is at fullback.

The team will be led by hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who has been out of rugby for weeks with injury and was not considered fit for the weekend’s Currie Cup final.

Lions prop Heinke van der Merwe, who has not played since April because of injury, is on the bench and will play as a tighthead.

De Villiers, who has ignored the highly successful Free State front-row in selecting his 37-man squad, said he had spoken to Van der Merwe, a specialist loosehead, about the proposed change three months ago.

“He has been training with Neels (Liebel, conditioning coach) since then and has bought into the challenge of scrumming down at tighthead,” said De Villiers.

Assistant Bok coach Dick Muir will be in charge of the squad bound for England and he has only a couple of days to ready his team for Leicester.

De Villiers said that the players involved against Leicester could still make the Test squad and indeed seven of them will have to fill the bench for the international a week later.

It makes no sense to have 15 players practising together in Johannesburg for a week if they are not to start together in the international and there seems little doubt that the initial intention was to drop Brüssow.

Nothing can be taken for granted in Springbok rugby. Ask any Free Stater.

The team to play Leicester Tigers is:

Earl Rose, Odwa Ndungane, Juan de Jongh, Wynand Olivier, Jongi Nokwe, Ruan Pienaar, Heini Adams, Ashley Johnson, Dewald Potgieter, Heinrich Brüssow, Andries

Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Jannie du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle (capt.), Gurtrho Steenkamp.

Replacements: Bandise Maku, Heinke van der Merwe, Alistair Hargreaves, Davon Raubenheimer, Francois Hougaard, Meyer Bosman, Riaan Viljoen.

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