Surprises in Bok squad

2008-10-26 00:00

Never mind the rabbits, Springbok rugby coach Peter de Villiers has pulled a brand new tighthead prop and a reluctant flyhalf from his hat for next month’s three-Test tour of the United Kingdom.

De Villiers named his 28-man squad at the weekend and World Cup-winning captain and hooker John Smit is now his number one tighthead and Ruan Pienaar, who wants to be a scrumhalf, is his first-choice flyhalf.

In the major surprise, De Villiers has picked Earl Rose as back-up to Pienaar at flyhalf, although the unpredictable and struggling Lions player was shifted to fullback for the recent Currie Cup semi-final.

De Villiers, like the Sharks, see Bismarck du Plessis as their number one hooker, but the Bok coach wants the respected Smit as his captain and said he hoped to extend his career by playing him at prop.

“We have two brilliant hookers and this way I can accommodate both. If it doesn’t work, I’m in big trouble.”

Smit will take over from CJ van der Linde, who is now playing club rugby in England, but his selection as a specialist prop has also cost Sharks tighthead Jannie du Plessis a place in the tour party.

Pienaar has publicly said he wants to play scrumhalf, but De Villiers said he is a talented player with all the qualities of a flyhalf “and he is a professional”.

Apart from Rose, who has always been highly rated by De Villiers, the only other new cap is the Free State flank and fetcher Heinrich Brussow.

De Villiers said he was always going to reward Currie Cup form — and said he had in selecting Rose and Brussow — but he has overlooked the best fullback in the competition in the Sharks’ Stefan Terblanche.

Returning after a long lay-off is lock Bakkies Botha, while Chiliboy Ralepelle, who has been out for most of the season with injury, is preferred to Adriaan Strauss and the Lions’ Willie Wepener at hooker.

There are nine Sharks players in the tour party and many of the Bulls players who are nursing bruised bodies this morning would probably agree that Jean Deysel, the Sharks human cannon-ball, would have been a valuable loose forward inclusion for the heavy going in Britain.

De Villiers said the overseas players, such as Butch James and Van der Linde, had not been considered as the Boks look to the future, “but we know they can slot in at any time”.

While De Villiers may have problems at flyhalf and tighthead, particularly against the strong scrummaging England team, he is spoilt for choice at centre (Jean de Villiers, Adrian Jacobs, Frans Steyn and Jaque Fourie) and number eight (Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski).

The squad will assemble in Cape Town tomorrow and depart for the UK on Friday.

The Bok squad is: Backs: Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Adrian Jacobs, Conrad Jantjes, Ricky Januarie, Odwa Ndungane, Jongi Nokwe, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Earl Rose, Frans Steyn.

Forwards: Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Heinrich Brussow, Bismarck du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski, Victor Matfield, Brian Mujati, Beast Mtawarira, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw, John Smit (capt), Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Gurthro Steenkamp.

ON STANDBY: Peter Grant, Jannie du Plessis. Johann Muller, Wynand Olivier, Adriaan Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Jano Vermaak.

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