De Villiers makes dramatic return to rescue ailing Boks

2009-11-26 00:00

CENTRE Jean de Villiers, who has been playing club rugby in Munster, seems certain to make a dramatic return to the Springbok team for Saturday’s Test match against Ireland at Croke Park in Dublin.

De Villiers yesterday became the third overseas-based player — after props CJ van der Linde and BJ Botha — to be called up by the touring Springboks, and he will replace the injured Sharks centre Adi Jacobs in the squad, SA Rugby announced last night.

Jacobs damaged an ankle against Italy at the weekend and will fly home today. Jean de Villiers, the Boks’ first-choice inside centre who has been playing club rugby for Munster since September, will join the squad today ahead of the team announcement.

Coach Peter de Villiers, who has publicly said he would only call on overseas players in an emergency, could rush the experienced Jean de Villiers directly into the starting line-up or he could play him off the bench with Wynand Olivier partnering Jaque Fourie in midfield.

Either way, De Villiers’s return provides a timely boost for the Boks.

Peter de Villiers said yesterday the WP centre will be involved on Saturday, but would not commit himself on whether he will start or play off the bench.

“You’ll have to wait until Thursday [today] when I name the team,” De Villiers told reporters.

Coach De Villiers delayed the announcement of the team because of the many injuries, but the good news is that in-form scrumhalf Fourie du Preez (damaged hand) has been practising this week and seems certain to play.

Bakkies Botha, however, has seen a specialist this week about a back problem and De Villiers is hoping he will be fit.

De Villiers has spent the European tour looking for a strong scrum and he is expected to return John Smit to hooker for the Test and start with the front-row that ended strongly against Italy.

This would involve Smit moving back to his old position at hooker in place of Bismarck du Plessis, with the two replacements props against Italy, BJ Botha and Beast Mtawarira, joining him in the starting line-up.

The selection of Smit at hooker may provide the scrum with greater cohesion, but the physicality, drive and high workrate of Du Plessis would be missed.

The compromise would be to use Smit at hooker for the first half to help the Springboks establish a forward platform and then switch him to tighthead with Du Plessis playing off the bench after the break.

There will also be changes in the back-row with Schalk Burger, over his rib injury, returning for Danie Rossouw, who started in his place on the flank against Italy.

With the Test expected to be played in heavy conditions, it seems certain that either Rossouw or perhaps Jean Deysel will be selected at number eight ahead of the mobile, but physically less imposing Ryan Kankowksi.

Kickoff is at 4.30 pm on Saturday and Welshman Nigel Owens will referee the Test between the Tri-Nations (South Africa) and Six Nations (Ireland) champions.


Possible Bok team:

Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers (or Wynand Olivier), Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brüssow, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, BJ Botha, John Smit (captain), Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: Wynand Olivier (or Jean de Villiers), Ruan Pienaar, Francois Hougaard, Jean Deysel, Andries Bekker, Bismarck du Plessis and Wian du Preez.

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