Hard-working Odwa set to start

2009-09-01 00:00

ODWA Ndungane seems certain to replace his Sharks team-mate JP Pietersen in the Springbok team to face the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations international in Brisbane on Saturday.

Pietersen, nursing a strained hamstring, and replacement lock Andries Bekker (damaged shoulder) have returned home after suffering injuries in South Africa’s win over Australia in Perth at the weekend.

There has been speculation that Pietersen could be replaced by utility back Frans Steyn or by tampering with the midfield, but Ndungane, a hard-working, consistent specialist, was selected as the only replacement wing in the tour squad and it would be a massive slap in the face if he was now ignored.

The Boks have other injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s Test with Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana and Danie Rossouw all receiving treatment yesterday.

Coach Peter de Villiers said yesterday that Botha, with knee and abdominal injuries, is the biggest worry and he missed training yesterday.

“Rossouw is fit, but hasn’t played for a while.

“We haven’t used him a lot and we’ll have to see whether he can be an 80-minute player,” De Villiers said.

The Springbok coach will name his starting line-up today and said he will allow Botha the whole week to recover from his injury if necessary, but would be guided by his “brilliant” medical team, headed by Craig Roberts.

De Villiers said he will not repeat the errors of the British Lions tour when he made wholesale changes once the series had been won and then watched his unsettled team lose 28-9 in the third Test at Ellis Park.

“We have done well up till now, but we need to keep that momemtum going.

“Now is not the time to make silly mistakes, even though we are so close to winning the competition.

“I only make the same mistake once.

“I made changes for the last Test against the Lions, but it has worked in our favour because I now know where I stand in terms of combinations and individual players.

“We will take it game by game, even if we have won the Tri-Nations, because we want to stay number one. We want the world to follow the things we do well and we will not cheapen our emblem,” De Villiers said.

The loss of Botha would be a major blow for the Boks and it was obvious that the scrum again suffered once he and flank Juan Smith left the field in the second half on Saturday.

De Villiers and the Springboks are still angry about the refereeing of Bryce Lawrence and his interpretations of the scrum laws.

“We’ve written to Paddy O’Brien [IRB referees manager] to try and get more clarity on what we did wrong in the scrums. I can’t understand what we were doing wrong and hopefully we’ll get a report back from the IRB by tomorrow morning. We definitely need to brush up on our scrums, while the breakdowns also need work because they stole two or three of our balls there,” De Villiers said yesterday.

De Villiers said that the Boks’ discipline has improved during the season — “we got our penalty count down to less than 10 in our last three games. And now, suddenly, it’s up to 15. You can’t play like that.”

The Australians are expected to make three changes to their starting line-up with Will Genia replacing Luke Burgess at scrumhalf, the Zimbabwean David Pocock taking over from Richard Brown at eighthman and Berrick Barnes, over his concussion, back in the line-up, possibly at flyhalf with the prolific try-scorer Matt Giteau switching to inside centre.

Wayne Barnes of England will referee in Brisbane on Saturday and kick-off is again at noon (SA time).

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