Crucial changes expected in Boks’ Grand Slam tour

2010-09-26 14:14

The fate of Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will not be the only

thing decided on Tuesday when South African Rugby Union bosses hold a review of

his performance.

The general composition of the squad for the Grand Slam tour of

Britain and Ireland will also be decided: Will a full-strength Springbok team

featuring the same stars who staggered through the Tri-Nations be chosen?

One of the first matters to be resolved is who will captain the

team in the absence of John Smit, after the veteran hooker underwent neck

surgery last week and is out of rugby for the rest of the year.

The 32-year-old was operated on by the same neurosurgeon who dealt

with a pair of his Sharks front-row teammates – Bismarck du Plessis and BJ Botha

– who have both made a successful return to rugby.

Normally, the quick answer would be Victor Matfield, the official

vice-captain and the man who has led the Bulls to the Super 14 and Currie Cup

domination in recent years.

Matfield (33) may well be as tough as teak, but his presence in

next year’s World Cup will be integral to South Africa’s hopes, and after his

heavy workload this year it may well be wiser to keep him in cotton wool


The good news is that the Springbok coaching and medical staff do

have a plan for the management of the players right through to next year’s

showpiece, which will be hosted by New Zealand in September and October.

This plan has been drawn up in conjunction with Professor Tim

Noakes, the renowned sports scientist who helped plot the 2007 World Cup triumph

in France.

The other positive news is that the fiasco over which players would

be withdrawn from rugby in order to undergo conditioning, leading to the unions

selfishly scuppering the plans of De Villiers and his staff, probably will not

negatively affect the Springboks as much as had been feared.

Conditioning coach Neels Liebel confirmed to City Press that all

the contracted Springboks were busy with individualised programmes suiting their

specific needs.

A few of the players involved in the conditioning programme – the

likes of Bakkies Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira and Ricky Januarie

– would have been looking forward to game time after a long period of inaction.

For the rest, however, the next few weeks provide an opportunity to pick up the

muscle tone and conditioning.

The mental freshness will also help in regaining the top form of a

Springbok team that needs a positive end of year. – MWP Media

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