Frans Steyn in, Schalk out of Bok starting XV

2009-06-17 00:00

THE cloud of uncertainty hanging over the Springbok team cleared yesterday when coach Peter de Villiers included Free State flank Heinrich Brüssow in the starting line-up to face the British and Irish Lions in the first Test at King’s Park on Saturday.

Brüssow, who joined the squad on Monday, takes over from the injured Schalk Burger as the open-side flank.

Days of hints, suggestions and smokescreens finally gave way to good old common sense yesterday with the inclusion of Brüssow. The Springbok medical staff felt confident that Burger, without any form, fitness and match practice, could still play on Saturday, but De Villiers yesterday ended all the speculation.

It was also initially believed that if Burger was forced to withdraw, his replacement would be the bulky utility forward, Danie Rossouw, who has played most of his rugby at lock for the Bulls this year. But wisely, in the end, the Bok national selectors opted for a specialist at flank and Brüssow, in excellent form in the Super 14 and against the Lions for the Cheetahs in the tour game, deserves his selection.

The loss of the world-rated Burger is, of course, a major blow.

De Villiers named an otherwise predictable line-up, with the positions, subject to some debate, of fullback, outside centre and flyhalf all going to Sharks players. Frans Steyn, on the strength of his massive boot, courage under the high ball and willingness to counter-attack, takes over at fullback from the injured Conrad Jantjes, while Adi Jacobs, troubled by a damaged shoulder in recent weeks, is selected at outside centre ahead of Jaque Fourie, and Ruan Pienaar is at flyhalf in spite of a season of injury.

The omission of the Loftus heroes, centre Wynand Olivier and flyhalf Morne Steyn, will ruffle feathers in Pretoria, although Steyn has been included on the bench and is the only new cap in the 22-man squad.

The Sharks provide seven players in the starting 15 (four backs and three forwards), the Bulls five, Free State two and Western Province one.

De Villiers also named two props on the bench (Deon Carstens and Gurthro Steenkamp), leaving tighthead and captain John Smit to cover as hooker.

Assistant Bok coach Dick Muir told reporters that Burger, who trained alone at King’s Park yesterday, should be fit for the second Test at Loftus on June 27.

Captain John Smit praised the high work-rate of Brüssow.

“He is very good at what he does,” Smit said. “He has not been picked on one performance against the Lions. He has been picked on how much he has irritated every single team he has played against in the Super 14.”

Smit said he is convinced that Steyn, who has played in every position in the backline for both the Boks and the Sharks, “is a fullback.”

“I’m really excited to see how Fransie goes this weekend. It’s a position I believe he was born to play.”

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