Changes loom for Boks ahead of Wales showdown

2013-11-06 00:00

COACH Heyneke Meyer is expected to make four changes to the Springbok team to face Wales in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday night and only one of them will be the result of injury.

Sharks tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis was a late withdrawal from the touring squad and the highly regarded Frans Malherbe, the 22-year-old Western Province prop, is expected to make his Test debut on Saturday.

World Cup veterans, wing JP Pietersen and centre Jaque Fourie, both currently playing their club rugby in Japan, seem certain to take over from Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht while Meyer will have to come up with a lock replacement for Juandré Kruger, who was dropped from the squad after his limp showing against the All Blacks at Ellis Park a month ago.

Pieter-Steph du Toit would appear to be the logical replacement after his sublime man-of-the-match display for the Sharks against Western Province in the recent Currie Cup final, but Meyer, strangely, is looking for a player to call and control the lineouts and this will count against the young player.

“Pieter-Steph’s general play is up there with the best in the world,” said Meyer, “but in our system the number five lock needs to take the lead in the lineouts. You can’t expect that from Pieter-Steph in his first Test.”

It would be useful to have confrontational Bakkies Botha in the starting line-up for what promises to be the most physical of internationals, but he is a number four lock and Flip van der Merwe is likely to return to partner Eben Etzebeth in the second row.

Meyer will name his team later today, but backline coach Ricardo Laubscher yesterday welcomed the return of the experienced Pietersen and outside centre Fourie.

“Jaque brings leadership and organisation to the backline on both attack and defence so we are excited to have him and JP back,” said Laubscher in an audio link-up from Cardiff.

Flank Francois Louw, who plays for leading England club Bath, said that the battle at the breakdown would be “a massive element” of the game on Saturday.

“Northern hemisphere refs [Irishman Alain Rolland is taking charge of the international] allow the breakdown to develop as a contest. It is a big area of the game here with teams counter-rucking to slow down the ball.

“We [the Boks] have placed great emphasis on the breakdown this year and we did well during the Rugby Championship, but have to sharpen up even more on Saturday to control and manage that area,” said Louw.

He said that he had improved as a player and a person since moving to Bath from Cape Town.

“The importance of the breakdown forced me to play that situation and I have learnt a lot as a player.”

He said that Wales, with their strong British Lions representation, would be highly competitive.

“They will play with passion in front of their home crowd and they will be determined to prove a point against a southern hemisphere team and the Springboks. It all makes for an exciting Test match,” the stocky flank said.

Kick-off at the Millennium Stadium is 7.30 pm (SA time) on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Wales coach Warren Gatland has named a strong team to face the Boks, the men in red having no fewer than nine British and Irish Lions in the line-up.

Wales team: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Eli Walker, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Gethin Jenkins. Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Scott Andrews, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Liam Williams.

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