De Villers makes 10 changes

2009-07-03 00:00

CONTINUITY and momentum went out of the window as head coach Peter de Villiers retained only five players who won the series against the British Lions in Pretoria at the weekend for tomorrow’s third and final Test at Ellis Park.

In making 10 changes, De Villiers has generously handed Test places to the rest of his 28-man Springbok squad — and even brought in a couple of players from the cold.

De Villiers said he has made the many changes to a winning team to afford all the players a chance of taking part in a Lions series.

”We respect the Lions so much; they only come around once every 12 years, so I wanted to give everyone a run against them.

“If they miss this opportunity, they miss it for a lifetime.”

He said he wants all 28 players to celebrate and be part of the series win.

De Villiers said he had “changed his mind four or five times this week on selection but I can’t change it again now”.

Of course, he has two Springbok selectors who might have helped to make his job easier if he had wanted to consult them.

The only new cap will be at fullback where the Bulls’ Zane Kirchner replaces Frans Steyn.

There are wholesale changes to the back division, with only the scrumhalf, Fourie du Preez, retaining his place.

While a strong argument could be made for including the pairing of Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie ahead of the rusty Jean de Villiers and Adi Jacobs, and the selection of the in-form Morne Steyn ahead of Ruan Pienaar, the choice of Odwa Ndungane and Jongi Nokwe has seen the impressive try-scorers at Loftus — Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen — omitted.

The suspension of flank Schalk Burger, replaced by Heinrich Brüssow, and lock Bakkies Botha, with Johann Muller taking over, were forced on de Villiers, but he has also brought in Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski for Pierre Spies and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle for Bismarck du Plessis.

“Chiliboy is an outstanding rugby player from a technical and positional perspective,” De Villiers said.

“If he didn’t have that injury a year ago, I think he would have been the number one hooker in South Africa now,” a claim which might not have gone down well with Bismarck du Plessis and, for that matter, John Smit.

De Villiers said Bakkies Botha’s absence resulted in the call-up of Sharks lock Steven Sykes, the one new face among the replacements, “to beef up the forwards.”

”The Lions will have their hands full playing against the pacy backline we have chosen.

“I hope Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie can create the space we need because then the Lions will know Jongi Nokwe’s number.

“He gives me goosebumps and if you blink you don’t see him,” De Villiers said.

Kirchner said his selection has taken him by surprise.

“It is unbelievable really, I’m still overwhelmed,” Kirchner.

“I’m definitely nervous. It’s my first Test after all, and I’m feeling the nerves as we speak.”

De Villiers said he will not change his management approach after being heavily criticised this week.

“I won’t change my style. If I did I would be changing Peter de Villiers, then I would have to go back to God and say I’ve done a bad job.”

De Villiers attempted to steer clear of the controversy which has dominated the build-up to the Test and would not be drawn on the Lions’ claims that coach Ian McGeechan had, in fact, congratulated him twice after the second Test.

“It’s our word against theirs. Let’s see who wins the third Test, and if they do I’ll go into their change-room and give Ian McGeechan my congratulations.”

But he ended by firing a broadside at the touring media.

“I allowed the negative British press to affect me. It was the same in ‘74,’80 and now in ‘09. What a stupid bugger I am.

“I’ve learnt that if they can’t win on the field then they will try to win anywhere else they can,” De Villiers said.

While De Villiers is enthusiastic about his new-look team, and the energy they will bring to the Springboks, the omission of many first-choice players may not be warmly received by those who have paid well over R1 000 to watch tomorrow’s Test.

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