The Boks finally name their team

2007-11-30 00:00

THE Springboks finally named their team yesterday, and it didn’t differ much from the combination that Jake White said it would be as long ago as a few hours after last week’s win over Wales in Cardiff.

Bakkies Botha is out with an ankle injury and, frankly, he was never going to play — you just had to see him hobbling around during the week to know that.

Johan Ackermann replaces him in the second row in what can effectively be seen as a possibly temporary comeback from retirement. The other predicted change was Bismarck du Plessis starting for John Smit, who is playing for his French club this weekend.

The only unanticipated change comes on the wing, where JP Pietersen has been forced out with a stomach bug that prevented him from training with the Boks on Wednesday.

Akona Ndungane moves into his No. 14 jersey, and the Boks have now been left with just six members of the team that started the World Cup final against England.

They are wing Bryan Habana, the midfield of Jaques Fourie and Frans Steyn, flanks Schalk Burger and Juan Smith and prop CJ van der Linde. In the case of Van der Linde, however, he is on the loosehead side of the scrum now whereas at Stade de France he was at tighthead.

So effectively there have been 10 changes to the team since that glorious evening of 20 October, and even if the Barbarians did beat the Boks tomorrow afternoon, it would be hard for them to argue that they did it against the world champions. New skipper Johann Muller was the first to admit as much.

“A lot of us were members of the World Cup squad, so we are effectively World Cup winners, but the team that actually won the final is no longer there so I am not sure how that will affect the motivation of the Barbarians,” said Muller.

What the changes do, however, is give the South Africans a late season opportunity to assess their depth and give some players a chance to grow further into international rugby. Although there won’t be caps given out for this fixture, someone like young number eight Ryan Kankowski can feel he has a lot to gain from another impressive performance in the green and gold.

They say your international debut goes by in a blur, so it is a good thing that Kankowski is getting another chance to settle. He scored a try last week, who knows, he may fly even further at Twickenham.

An interesting feature of the team is the fact that several of the players in the side tomorrow who did not play in the World Cup final were in fact part of the team that scored an important watershed victory against England on South Africa’s last visit to Twickenham.

They include Andre Pretorius, who was the matchwinner that afternoon, scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, and the second row pairing of Ackermann and Muller. Akona Ndungane was also part of the match squad that day, while reserve centre Wynand Olivier started. Of course Frans Steyn, the only World Cup Bok in tomorrow’s team who was also at Twickenham last November, was the find of that match and that tour.

The composition of the team, which was announced yesterday by email and not through a press conference, did vindicate the criticism of the management for the way they handled the previous day’s postponement.

There was nothing surprising about the combination chosen, so why didn’t they just go ahead with the announcement when scheduled?

Springbok team

Ruan Pienaar, Akona Ndungane, Jaques Fourie, Frans Steyn, Bryan Habana, Andre Pretorius, Ricky Januarie, Ryan Kankowski, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Johann Muller (captain), Johan Ackermann, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, CJ van der Linde.

On the bench: Tiaan Liebenberg, Heinke van der Merwe, Albert van den Berg, Albert van den Berg, Wynand Olivier, Wayne Julies, Conrad Jantjes.

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