‘Horses for courses’, says coach

2009-11-27 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers has shifted captain John Smit back to hooker and made six changes his starting line-up for the Test against Ireland at Croke Park in Dublin tomorrow.

De Villiers has predictably stayed with the front-row which ended strongly against Italy with Smit, making his first Test start at hooker since last year, packing down with Beast Mtawarira and BJ Botha.

The changes made by De Villiers, for what is expected to be a fiercely physical Test in wet, cold and windy conditions, are fairly predictable, though he faced a difficult choice in naming a replacement for the injured Adi Jacobs at inside centre.

Jean de Villiers, the world-class Springbok centre who is playing club rugby for Munster, joined the squad yesterday and the Bok coach must have been tempted to rush him back into action. But, of course, this would have been a slap in the face for Bulls centre Wynand Olivier and would have contradicted De Villiers’ policy of only choosing overseas-based players when he had no readymade replacement. Olivier also has the advantage of playing outside his provincial team-mates Morne Steyn and Fourie du Preez and he should bolster the Boks’ midfield defence.

Jean de Villiers, covering centre and wing, joins Ruan Pienaar (scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback) as the only backline replacements while five forward substitutes have been named.

The inclusion of Olivier at centre is the only new face amongst the backs but the pack has been transformed with five changes, two of which are positional.

In the front-row, Mtawarira returns in place of Wian du Preez and BJ Botha starts at tighthead with captain John Smit moving to hooker in the place of Adriaan Strauss.

Victor Matfield is back in the second-row for Andries Bekker while Schalk Burger returns at flank with Danie Rossouw moving from the side of the scrum to number eight where Ryan Kankowski makes way and fails to even make the bench.

There are four more changes on the bench with hooker Bismarck du Plessis and prop CJ van der Linde returning from injury, centre Jean de Villiers replacing Olivier and Bulls flank Dewald Potgieter included in the Test 22 for the first time.

Botha, De Villiers and Van der Linde, late additions to the tour squad, are all playing club rugby in Ireland.

The changes were played down by De Villiers who said that Kankowski “was being managed after taking a bump against Italy” — even though he has trained all week — while the front-row was a “horses for courses selection”.

“The front row we’ve selected is perfect for how we want to play against Ireland,” said De Villiers.

The Bok coach also explained his approach to selecting overseas-based players and said that it was in response to a series of injuries, particularly in the front-row.

“We will always look inside our own country first. If we can’t find someone good enough, only then will we look outside.

“We are fortunate that Jean (de Villiers) was already in Ireland it would be silly to fly a replacement out from South Africa. He knows the system and has played for the Springboks all year.”

Smit said he could hardly remember when he last started at hooker but said he hoped BJ Botha was right when he said after the Italian Test that returning to the Bok front-row “is just like riding a bike”.

Smit said he was looking forward “to an epic Test.”

“They’re the Six Nations champions and we’ve enjoyed a good year, so it’s going to be tough.”

The Test kicks off at 4.30 pm tomorrow.

Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie , 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (capt), 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Reserves: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Jean de Villiers

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