Success means measured Bok changes likely for Italy

2010-06-14 00:00

THE Springboks’ 25-point winning margin over the French in Cape Town on Saturday and the success of his fringe players will encourage coach Peter de Villiers to make measured changes for the two Tests against Italy over the next fortnight.

De Villiers said at the weekend that he had previously been reluctant to toss rookies into the frontline of Test rugby. But the form of players such as wing Gio Aplon, who scored two tries, flank Francois Louw and reserve hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who replaced captain John Smit (strained hamstring) at half-time, showed the Bok coach, and the South African rugby public, that there is depth in every area.

Ralepelle, who is the third- or fourth-choice hooker at the Bulls and has played only bit parts for the Boks in recent seasons, was strong and productive on Saturday and Smit later sang his praises.

“Chiliboy was outstanding. He made four turnovers, scrummed well and forced a couple of scrum penalties. He has always been good irrespective of whether he has played one or 20 minutes,” said Smit.

Smit is to undergo a scan today, but it seems certain that Ralepelle will be at hooker against Italy in Witbank on Saturday when the team is named tomorrow.

But the Newlands Test will always be remembered for the impact made by homeboy Aplon who proved that, on a rugby field anyway, speed can trump size.

First, the 74-kg wing bumped off Maxime Mermoz, who is 15 kg heavier, to score his first try, and then he ran 90 metres to beat the helpless French cover for his second.

He admitted later that he is asked on a daily basis “about my small size”.

“I hope that will now stop, but that’s wishful thinking isn’t it? I know that every week I have to prove people wrong all over again.”

One who has no worries about size is the 112-kg flank, Francois Louw, who has shown excellent form for the Stormers and in two Tests for the Boks this year, making big tackles and winning possession on the ground.

Smit said that there had been concern when Schalk Burger was sidelined in 2009, and Heinrich Brussow had popped up, and now Louw “has done a very good job” taking over from Juan Smith.

And with the busy, abrasive scrumhalf Ricky Januarie also justifying the selectors’ faith in him, the Springboks had every reason to celebrate Saturday’s excellent win over the Six Nations champions.

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