Tri-nations: Div prepares for squad ‘that don’t respect reputations’James to pair with Du Preez

2011-08-12 00:00

COACH Peter de Villiers, recalling the past in looking to the future, has predictably named the most experienced team in Springbok rugby history to take on the Wallabies in tomorrow’s Tri-Nations Test at King’s Park.

De Villiers’s starting line-up has a combined total of 810 caps and remarkably, 12 of the players — the exceptions are Pierre Spies, Heinrich Brüssow and Beast Mtawarira — were in the Bok squad that won the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.

Another, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, is on the bench and De Villiers hopes that his World Cup-winning flanks, Schalk Burger and Juan Smith, will be over their injuries and ready to join the squad for the RWC in New Zealand.

De Villiers, as expected, has rushed in all the fit senior players who were in Rustenburg while the young Springboks were providing cannon fodder for first the Wallabies in Sydney and then the All Blacks in Wellington on the Tri-Nations tour. Captain John Smit and flank Danie Rossouw are the only survivors from the team which started – and lost 40-7 – to the All Blacks.

Scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and flank Heinrich Brüssow will return to the Springbok starting line-up for the first time in nearly two years after missing the 2010 season because of injury.

Four other players, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Butch James and Gurthrö Steenkamp, are back after missing last year’s international season.

“We still have a number of leading players unavailable through injury but this is the strongest squad we have been able to choose since 2009 [the British Lions tour],” said De Villiers yesterday.

“It’s great to have Fourie [Du Preez] and Heinrich [Brüssow] back as they were two of the leading players in world rugby when they last played in 2009, and they contributed a lot to Springbok success that season.

“This is the first step back for them, but we’re looking to them to have the same impact in due course.”

James, who played a pivotal role in the 2007 RWC triumph, takes over from Morné Steyn, the match-winner with the boot against the British Lions. The last time James played with Du Preez at halfback was in 2008 when the Boks beat the Wallabies by 50 points.

De Villiers told the media briefing yesterday that Schalk Burger would not play before the World Cup. “But he will be ready. I’ve never seen him work so hard.”

He said Juan Smith is still battling to overcome his Achilles’ tendon injury. “I’m hoping he will be back to play a few games for the Cheetahs before the World Cup.”

The Bok coach added that Sharks loose forward Willem Alberts (shoulder) will be ready to face the All Blacks next weekend in Port Elizabeth.

Brüssow has had just 20 minutes of rugby for the Cheetahs since returning from injury but he said he hoped he could “get in the Wallaby faces” for an hour tomorrow.

Sharks flank Jean Deysel, named on the bench, is expected to replace him in the last quarter and Bismarck du Plessis is likely to take over from Smit at hooker.

“This team has vast experience and a strong leadership core, but that counts for nothing at kick-off on Saturday,” said De Villiers. “This Australian team are no respecter of reputations — we saw that last year in Bloemfontein — and we know just how dangerous they can be.

“They will be highly motivated and hurting after their last result [a defeat to the All Blacks] and they have a good recent record against us. They will know we have just come together and they’ll be looking to exploit that.”

A dozen of the Springboks have not played for six or seven weeks and De Villiers said they would battle to settle down for the first 15 to 20 minutes.

“But then I think they will go well and I’m looking forward to it,” he added.

Former Shark Gerhard Mostert, who made his debut in the last Test against the All Blacks, will cover the lock position from the bench.

Springbok team

15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Danie Rossouw, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Gio Aplon.

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