Shadow Bok squad at training

2011-07-08 00:00

WITH a kindly doctor this week handing out sick notes to 21 of South Africa’s first-choice players, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers was yesterday preparing for the Tri-Nations tour with the balance of the squad.

De Villiers has a predominantly second-string squad of 29 players for the internationals against Australia and New Zealand at the end of the month. Springbok number eight Pierre Spies was surprisingly missing — he was cleared by the Bok coaching staff to holiday in Italy with his wife — and at yesterday’s practice utility forward Danie Rossouw rather than Ryan Kankowski was in his place in the backrow.

De Villiers will name his tour party today — and not tomorrow as initially scheduled — and it appears that a tighthead from outside the preliminary training squad of 50 will be included following the withdrawal of both Jannie du Plessis and BJ Botha.

While the rash of injuries has largely (and conveniently) spread through the Springboks’ first-choice players, De Villiers still has some experience in the squad and a number of the tour group are certainties for the Rugby World Cup.

Among those are captain John Smit, who will welcome the opportunity to show the world that he can hold his own internationally at hooker, Danie Rossouw, Heinrich Brüssow, Ruan Pienaar, Morné Steyn, Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon.

De Villiers yesterday ran what appeared to be his shadow Bok side at yesterday’s practice.

Aplon was at fullback with Bjorn Basson and Lwazi Mvovo on the wings, the midfield was De Jongh and Wynand Olivier with Steyn and Pienaar at halfback.

Rossouw, Ashley Johnson and Deon Stegmann were the loose forwards, Johann Muller (rather than Alistair Hargreaves) and Flip van der Merwe locked the scrum and Smit packed down with Bulls props Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling.

There will, of course, be a repeat of the 2007 scenario when coach Jake White was widely criticised in Australia and New Zealand for defying a Sanzar directive and touring with his second-stringers.

Saru manager Andy Marinos said earlier this week that the Boks would tour with their strongest available, but, of course, he would say that.

Certainly it is Sanzar that must take the blame for introducing an extended, five-month Super Rugby competition, and following it with a meaningless Tri-Nations series, in a World Cup year.

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