Host of changes in SA squad

2009-11-02 00:00

PETER de Villiers and the Currie Cup coaches are singing from a different hymn sheet and the Springbok coach produced a host of surprises in naming nine new caps in his 37-man squad to tour Europe this month.

The squad was named immediately after the final in Pretoria on Saturday night with De Villiers, seeking the next generation of Springboks, placing his own interpretation on a season of Currie Cup rugby.

The first-choice Test team is largely still in place, with fullback Zane Kirchner and either Meyer Bosman or Wynand Olivier, in midfield, and flank Schalk Burger taking over from the missing Frans Steyn, Jean de Villiers and Juan Smith.

But it is in naming the balance of the squad that De Villiers has defied the thoughts and selections of senior Currie Cup coaches.

The Bulls’ two back-up hookers, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bandise Maku, are included ahead of the champions’ first-choice Derick Kuün; the selection of Sharks lock Alistair Hargreaves, who failed to make John Plumtree’s 22-man semi-final squad and has been injured for most of the year, is another major surprise, while Lions utility back Earl Rose continues to smell just as sweet to De Villiers in spite of being out of favour with the Lions.

De Villiers has long been a Rose supporter, and, ignoring his inconsistencies, has blamed the Lions for shunning his talents. He said that the utility back would be used as a fullback on tour, but may also be given a run at flyhalf or centre.

The Bok coach announced that Ralepelle, who has not played for six weeks because of injury, would lead the Boks in their tour opener against Leicester on Friday night.

Wing Jongi Nokwe, overlooked for the Currie Cup final, is also back in De Villiers’s squad ahead of his Free State team-mates.

De Villiers, with only three players of colour in his Test team, has been under fierce political pressure to transform the Springboks, but SA Rugby president Regan Hoskins said that merit is the only consideration in naming the tour squad.

“I didn’t even think of numbers or colour when I received or read out the side,” said Hoskins. “The number of players of colour is a bonus and pleases me, but we did it on merit, and merit alone,” he added.

De Villiers has included 15 players of colour in the tour party, but has also ignored a couple of others, most notably scrumhalf Ricky Januarie and Free State wing Lionel Mapoe. He said that Januarie’s brush with the law — he faces a drink and driving charge and missed last week’s court appearance — was not a factor. The Bok coach has preferred Bulls reserve scrumhalves Heine Adams and Francois Hougaard to Griquas’ lively Sarel Pretorius as Fourie du Preez’s understudies.

De Villiers’s selection in the front-row will also prompt fierce debate. The two successful Free State props, WP Nel and Wian du Preez, have both been ignored while loosehead Heinke van der Merwe, who has been sidelined all year by injury, has been included as a tighthead.

The nine new caps on tour are Hougaard and Adams, WP centre Juan de Jongh and Bulls’ flank Dewald Potgieter, Free State number eight Ashley Johnson, lock Hargreaves, the Griqua pair of flank Davon Raubenheimer and fullback Riaan Viljoen, and Bulls hooker Bandise Maku.

Nineteen of the squad were involved in the Currie Cup final on Saturday while 10 Sharks have been included.

“We will go on tour with a strong core of players who have reached great heights this season, but we are under no illusions about the challenges we face,” said De Villiers. “We do, however, have a fairly settled Test team that boasts a significant number of caps.”

De Villiers added that the newcomers to the squad have been recognised for their recent Currie Cup performances and said that the five-match tour will also allow him the opportunity to assess various players, particularly at inside centre and fullback following the departure of Jean de Villiers and Frans Steyn.

The squad of 37 will assemble in Johannesburg today with the Springbok team for the midweek matches departing for England tomorrow. The remaining players — the Test XV — will remain in South Africa and leave for France next Tuesday (November 10).

Springbok touring squad 2009

Backs (17): Heini Adams (Bulls), Meyer Bosman (Free State), Juan de Jongh (WP), Fourie du Preez (Bulls), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Bryan Habana (Bulls), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Adi Jacobs (Sharks), Zane Kirchner (Bulls), Odwa Ndungane (Sharks), Jongi Nokwe (Free State), Wynand Olivier (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Earl Rose (Lions), Morné Steyn (Bulls), Riaan Viljoen (Griquas)

Forwards (20): John Smit (Sharks, captain), Victor Matfield (Bulls, vice-captain), Andries Bekker (WP), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Heinrich Brüssow (Free State), Schalk Burger (WP), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Alistair Hargreaves (Sharks), Ashley Johnson (Free State), Ryan Kankowski (Sharks), Bandise Maku (Bulls), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Dewald Potgieter (Bulls), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Davon Raubenheimer (Griquas), Danie Rossouw (Bulls), Pierre Spies (Bulls), Gurthrö Steenkamp (Bulls), Heinke van der Merwe (Lions)

Springbok Tour Fixtures (SA times)

November 6: vs Leicester (9.45 pm)

November 13: vs France Toulouse (9.45 pm)

November 17: vs Saracens at Wembley Stadium (9.45 )

November 21: vs Italy Udine (4 pm)

November 28: vs Ireland Dublin (4.30 pm)

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