Bismarck to start match

2013-10-03 00:00

HOOKER Bismarck du Plessis returns to the Springbok starting line-up but Sharks’ team-mate Pieter-Steph du Toit has been overlooked by coach Heyneke Meyer for Saturday evening’s Rugby Championship international against the All Blacks at Ellis Park.

Du Plessis, who was surprisingly relegated to the bench against the Wallabies last Saturday, takes over from Adriaan Strauss in one of two changes to the starting line-up. In the other, lock Juandré Kruger takes over from Flip van der Merwe, who was suspended for a week following a dangerous tackle in Cape Town.

The uncapped Golden Lions lock Franco van der Merwe, called into the squad this week, has leapfrogged Sharks second-rower Du Toit and has been named on the bench.

The Sharks coaching staff, hit by injuries to their second-rowers, will not be happy. Du Toit who suffered a sternum injury in June, has played little rugby since his return last month and the Sharks were hoping that he would be released for Currie Cup action if he was not in the Test match 23.

There could be a third change to the Springbok starting line-up. Outside centre JJ Engelbrecht, nursing a badly bruised thigh, faces a late fitness test. He has been bracketed with Jan Serfontein while Juan de Jongh will join the bench if there is a last-minute change.

“We will give JJ all the time he needs to fully recover from his quad muscle injury,” Meyer said at the team announcement yesterday.

“Juandré [Kruger] will slot in at lock without any difficulty as he’s been part of the squad since day one. I’m very pleased for Franco [van der Merwe], who has been training with us for more than a year already.

“Franco’s attitude since day one has been fantastic. He’s waited patiently and always stayed positive, which is what we as a team stand for. He could make his debut against New Zealand in front of his home crowd at Ellis Park on Saturday.”

Sharks prop Beast Mtawarira will play in his 50th Test for the Springboks on Saturday and Meyer praised the 28-year-old who made his debut in June 2008 against Wales in Pretoria.

He will be the 27th Springbok to reach 50 Test caps and the fifth prop behind Os du Randt, CJ van der Linde, Ollie le Roux and Jannie du Plessis.

“What a wonderful achievement for Beast,” said Meyer. “He is someone who doesn’t speak a lot, but you know he always gives everything he has for the Springbok jersey. It’s always good to see hard work and dedication pay off like this.”

Richie McCaw seems certain to be declared fit to lead the All Blacks when he has a final fitness test later today. The 32-year-old has been sidelined by a knee injury he received when he played the Pumas and he was initially expected to be out for five weeks.

But All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster all but confirmed his return yesterday.

“He’s done well. He will be tested but he’s looking strong and ready to go.”

Foster said Saturday’s Test was just the latest in a series of big games for the All Blacks.

“Yeah, we keep having lots of these big games. The media keep telling us it’s the next one, the big one. I’m not going to debate it. You can call it what you like. Quite frankly, it is a big game. There’s a title on the line, there’s a whole lot of things on the line. We’ve had a few of those and we’ve just got to keep climbing the mountain.”

Springbok team

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht/Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16, Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein/Juan de Jongh.

New Zealand Team

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock

Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau

Kick-off: 5.00 pm.

Other Rugby Championship fixture: Argentina vs Australia, Sunday, 12.40 am (SA time).

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