De Villiers expects ‘tough’ Test

2009-11-20 00:00

INJURY and fatigue has resulted in coach Peter de Villiers rejigging his pack of forwards, and making four changes, for tomorrow’s Test against Italy in Udine.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis and flank Schalk Burger, who played in the losing Springbok pack against France last Saturday, have failed to recover from their rib injuries, while veteran lock Victor Matfield and loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira have been rested and will play off the bench.

Injuries played a major role in selection with tighthead prop CJ van der Linde (hamstring) also ruled out of the Test, resulting in former Sharks prop BJ Botha, rushed across from Ireland this week, being named among the replacements. Botha last played for the Boks against Wales in June last year before taking up a contract in Ulster.

There had been speculation that the Boks would start with Van der Linde in the front-row with Smit moving back to hooker to strengthen the scrummaging, but the Bok captain will again start on the tighthead. However, with no hooker named on the bench, Smit will provide cover.

Free Staters Adriaan Strauss, at hooker, and loosehead Wian du Preez will start with Smit in the front-row, while the towering Andries Bekker came through a fitness test yesterday and takes over from Matfield at lock.

Du Preez will earn his first Test cap tomorrow and he has the job of containing Italian tighthead Martin Castrogiovanni who destroyed the Bok scrum when playing for the Leicester Tigers.

The injury that has sidelined Burger on the flank may have thrown number eight Ryan Kankowski a lifeline. The Sharks loose forward struggled against the physical French team, conceding possession on half-a-dozen occasions, and it was expected that Danie Rossouw, who played at number eight in the 2007 World Cup, would start. However, Burger’s withdrawal has resulted in Rossouw being selected on the flank.

De Villiers has named an unchanged backline with inside centre Adi Jacobs retaining his place ahead of the Bulls’ Wynand Olivier.

De Villiers, addressing the media in the northern Italian city yesterday, said he was expecting a “tough” Test against the rapidly-improving home team, which is coached by South African Nick Mallett.

“The more experience they gain, the better they are becoming and they are able to compete with any team on the day,” De Villiers said.

“They have a very good pack of forwards and they showed in their Test against New Zealand that they will be very competitive at scrum time.”

Both Bismarck du Plessis and Schalk Burger will be available for the Test against Ireland next weekend. De Villiers said they could have played against Italy, but it was decided to give them more time to recover.

De Villiers said he was delighted to be able to call on a quality prop like BJ Botha in the Boks’ moment of crisis.

“We have lost almost two front-rows and it is reassuring to know that there are strong players that we can call on,” De Villiers said.

There are two uncapped players on the bench in Sharks flank Jean Deysel and scrumhalf Francois Hougaard.

“We feel that this is an ideal opportunity to test Jean and Francois at Test level and hopefully they will be able to make the step up,” he said.

The Bok training session at Udine Rugby Club yesterday was attended by a large crowd as well as a substantial media contingent.

Mallett has named a predictable squad with a pair of South African locks in Quintin Geldenhuys and Carlo del Fava and a front-row of Castrogiovanni, Salvatore Perugini and Fabio Ongaro who play their club rugby in England.

Wing Mirco Bergamasco told the media that the Boks will be more physical than the All Blacks, who beat the Azzurri 20-6 at the weekend, in spite of their three successive tour losses.

“We will have to be more present in defence, effective with the high ball and watch their kicking game.

“After the game against the All Blacks there was no self-gratification in the group. We can’t allow ourselves to lower the tension because against opponents such as South Africa, you can pay dearly for any mistakes.”

The match kicks off at 4 pm tomorrow.


South Africa (15-1): Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen; Jaque Fourie; Adi Jacobs; Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn; Fourie du Preez; Ryan Kankowski; Danie Rossouw; Heinrich Brussow; Andries Bekker; Bakkies Botha; John Smit (capt); Adriaan Strauss; Wian du Preez.

Replacements: Tendai Mtawarira; BJ Botha; Victor Matfield; Jean Deysel; Francois Hougaard; Ruan Pienaar; Wynand Olivier.

Italy (15-1): Luke McLean; Matteo Pratichetti; Alberto Sgarbi; Gonzalo Garcia; Mirco Bergamasco; Craig Gower; Simon Piccone; Sergio Parisse; Alessandro Zanni; Simone Favaro; Quintin Geldenhuys; Carlo Antonio Del Fava; Martin Castrogiovanni; Fabio Ongaro; Salvatore Perugini.

Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini; Ignacio Rouyet; Antonio Pavanello; Josh Sole; Mauro Bergamasco; Tito Tebaldi; Gonzalo Canale.

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