Boks call up three front-row replacements as coach changes his foreign policy

2009-11-09 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers has done an about-turn in choosing overseas-based players by calling up tighthead prop CJ van der Linde to join the Springboks on their European tour.

In a weekend of front-row forwards coming and going, De Villiers yesterday named Van der Linde as a replacement for the injured Shark, Jannie du Plessis.

De Villiers, who has a policy of only selecting South African-based players, said he would turn to overseas players only in an emergency. However, he had his crisis this weekend when his pack was destroyed by the Leicester forwards on Friday night and all three front-row players (Du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Gurthro Steenkamp) went down with injuries serious enough to end their European tour.

“It’s fantastic that we’re able to call on a player with CJ’s experience to join the squad,’ said De Villiers.

‘With such a tight schedule it is also helpful to be able to bring in someone who has been part of the group before, knows the systems and will settle in quickly.

“CJ is also a specialist tighthead who will provide the type of cover (for John Smit) we will need.

“It is unfortunate that we have lost three players so early in the tour but that is part of the game and we have to be able to manage such setbacks.”

Van der Linde will join up with the rest of the Bok squad when they arrive in Toulouse on Wednesday.

Ralepelle and Steenkamp are returning home and Free Staters Wian du Preez and Adriaan Strauss are flying to France with John Smit’s Test team tomorrow.

Hooker Ralepelle captained the Springboks for 20 minutes in their 22-17 defeat by Leicester on Friday night before apparently aggravating his foot injury and he is returning to Pretoria to consult a specialist. Loosehead Steenkamp, who was bent, buckled and in reverse against Leicester, injured a knee and Du Plessis damaged a hand.

Prop Du Preez and hooker Strauss, who were surprisingly omitted from the initial squad, will certainly improve the quality of the Springboks’ scrummaging.

Wian du Preez said he will put his two-month deal with Munster on hold while he is involved with the Boks. Du Preez signed a loan contract with the injury-hit Irish club on Friday, but said that playing for the Springboks would be his priority.

Van der Linde, capped 56 times for the Boks and a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad, last played for the Springboks in 2008, but has since been ignored by De Villiers who has said he wanted to remain loyal to players based in South Africa.

The Springboks and their officials had another weekend crisis when the Sports Ministry and sports portfolio committee chairman Butana Komphela popped out of the woodwork to announce that first-choice prop Mtawarira, who has already played 19 Tests, was suddenly no longer eligible for the Boks.

The Beast, born in Zimbabwe, has a work permit to play for the Sharks, and has been in Durban for four years, but Komphela told reporters the big prop could not play for the Springboks because he does not have a South African passport

But after a series of intense discussions between the SA Rugby Union and the Sports Ministry, Mtawarira was cleared to tour late on Saturday.

“We are delighted with the news after discovering this problem during the week,” said SA Rugby Union president Regan Hoskins.

“The government has been very helpful in expediting the completion of the necessary protocols and we’re all relieved that Beast will be available for selection for the Springboks against France in Toulouse on Friday.”

Across in England, and reflecting on the Leicester defeat, assistant coach Dick Muir said he had never seen a worse performance from a Springbok pack and admitted that the experiment of fielding a new-look team — and 10 rookies — on Friday night had failed.

“We were poor at the breakdown and poor at set pieces so we couldn’t get our game going,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve seen a South African pack as bad as that, especially from a coaching perspective. We were given a lesson at the scrums.”

The irony is that the Boks, with Du Preez, Straus and Van der Linde added to the tour party, are stronger now than they were three days ago.

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