Who will De Villiers pick for UK tour?

2008-10-24 00:00

WITH Springbok coach Peter de Villiers keeping his head down in recent weeks, no one seems quite certain which players, or indeed how many of them, will be in the Springbok tour party for the three-Test tour of the UK next month.

Even officials close to the Bok squad are unsure of the composition of the side as De Villiers has gone to ground. What is known is that the selectors will meet for the first time in Durban this morning and the tour squad of between 28 to 35 — depending on the source — will be named after the Currie Cup final tonight (7 pm).

One of the contradictions is that World Cup flyhalf Butch James, playing for Bath in England, is not available. James said recently that he hoped to quit Test rugby after next year’s British Lions tour of South Africa and, without obvious back-up, his experience of the heavy fields of Britain would be invaluable on this tour. Francois Steyn and Ruan Pienaar, reluctantly, could provide back-up at flyhalf.

If James is put out to pasture, either Peter Grant or the improved Morne Steyn could earn a call-up.

Public interest will also be on the selectors’ choice at flank where the politicians, but few others, are pushing for the inclusion of Puke Watson. His inclusion would cause obvious problems on tour, but the selectors are fortunate that the Western Province flank has been outplayed by Heinrich Brüssouw, Cobus Grobbelaar and Wikus van Heerden, among others, in the Currie Cup.

With Percy Montgomery’s career finally over, Conrad Jantjes is the obvious choice at fullback. Stefan Terblanche has been the form player in this position though his age (33) could, but should not, count against him.

Jaque Fourie, over his injury, and lock Bakkies Botha, due to return from his extended break next week, should also be included, while the improved form of centre Wynand Olivier may see his selection.

De Villiers will also have to decide how to use John Smit. The heavier Smit, who seems better suited to prop than hooker, will captain the team and he may well play some of his rugby on the tighthead to keep the robust Bismarck du Plessis in the mix.

The team will play Wales in Cardiff on November 8, Scotland at Murrayfield on November 15 and England at Twickenham on November 22.

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