Surprise: Conradie in, but Kockott omitted

2008-05-28 00:00

TWO Sharks World Cup players, wing JP Pietersen and lock Johann Muller, have been dropped from the Springbok squad for the Tests against Wales and Italy.

Pietersen is the only player who started the World Cup final against England who has been omitted.

Joining the pair on the sidelines is centre Waylon Murray, while the other eight Sharks who were at the Springbok training camp are all in the 30-man squad for the three Tests.

The eight are wing Odwa Ndungane, centre Adrian Jacobs, utility backs Francois Steyn and Ruan Pienaar, front-row forwards BJ Botha, Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis and number eight Ryan Kankowski.

The Beast (Mtawarira), who is one of four new caps in the squad, joins two other Zimabweans in the squad. The others are Stormers Tonderai Chavhanga and prop Brian Mujati.

The new faces are towering lock Andries Bekker, who takes over from Muller, Mtawarira, Mujati and Odwa Ndungane, who is preferred to his twin brother Akona.

“It wasn’t easy cutting down the squad to 30, and that is how it should always be,” said De Villiers. “A lot of guys put up their hands and I want to make it clear that the Springbok door is not shut to anyone.

“The squad was picked entirely on merit, and every player named deserves his spot. I congratulate them all and look forward to the challenges of Wales and Italy.”

Selectors Peter Jooste and Ian McIntosh also expressed their satisfaction at a “well-balanced squad, with the right mix of youth and experience”.

De Villiers named 14 backs and 16 forwards and, unsurprisingly, included controversial flank Luke Watson as one of the loose forwards. This year, at least, Watson has done some talking on the field.

The Bok coach has named most of the World Cup-winning squad. The exceptions are Pietersen, the injured Jaque Fourie, Schalk Burger and Fourie du Preez, and prop Os du Randt who has retired.

Chavanga, if fully fit and over his hamstring strain, is likely to take over from Pietersen; Jean de Villiers, who missed the World Cup final because of injury, is certain to replace Fourie in midfield; Ricky Januarie will start at scrumhalf and Watson, for Burger, and either Gurthrö Steenkamp or Mtawarira, for Du Randt, are the other probable changes.

The surprise of the squad is the inclusion of reserve scrumhalf Bolla Conradie, who spent the Super 14 on the bench for the Stormers, ahead of Rory Kockott, one of the Sharks’ most consistent performers this year.

De Villiers picked 11 players of colour — eight in the backs — in the squad, but said it was not an issue.

“I don’t know how many players of colour we’ve chosen and I don’t care,” he said.

De Villiers added that he is concerned about Pietersen’s form. The Sharks wing was the leading try-scorer in the Super 14 in 2007, but this year did not score.

De Villiers said Pietersen was not managed well in the Super 14 and his physical condition suffered. And that will raise hackles at King’s Park.

“There is something wrong with Pietersen’s conditioning,” De Villiers said. “We would rather condition him and make him more competitive for the Lions tour next year, and the Tri-Nations. The decision [to drop him] was done purely for the player’s well-being and future.

“He’s still very young and the demands that this game puts on the body are huge. He had a sequence of matches that included the outbound Tour, Super 14, World Cup and then again Super 14 was quite a load.

“We need to look after the guy.”

Apart from Muller and Pietersen, the other World Cup squad members who were overlooked were Wynand Olivier and Akona Ndungane.

The squad assemble in Bloemfontein on Sunday to prepare for the first of two Tests against Wales (June 7 and 14) followed by one against Italy in Cape Town on June 21.

Backs: Gcobani Bobo, Tonderai Chavhanga, Bolla Conradie, Jean de Villiers, Peter Grant, Bryan Habana, Adrian Jacobs, Butch James, Conrad Jantjes, Ricky Januarie, Percy Montgomery, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar and Francois Steyn.

Forwards: Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, BJ Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Brian Mujati, Danie Rossouw, John Smit (c), Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Gurthrö Steenkamp, CJ van der Linde, Joe van Niekerk and Luke Watson.

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