Venter to fight for Bok spot

2001-11-08 20:44

Paris - Andre Venter's disappointment was huge when he was left out of the Springbok team. But he has fought his way back into contention before and he will fight again to regain his prized No 7 jersey.

That was VenterÂ’s first reaction to his omission from the starting team to take on the French at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.

Venter has been replaced by AJ Venter in the starting lineup, and will be one of five forwards on the bench waiting for a turn as an impact player.

The first time he was dropped was during the tour of the British Isles at the end of the 1998 season.

After the SpringboksÂ’ convincing 28-20 victory over Wales, Venter had to make room for present captain Bob Skinstad by the then coach Nick Mallett. Mallett increasingly regarded Venter as a lock and not a flank.

Skinstad played his first Test against Scotland in Edinburgh, after spending the first seven Tests on the bench.

At the time Mallett said the decision to drop Venter (after 29 Tests) was one of the hardest in his career, but critics said he had deliberately dropped Venter to make way for Skinstad.

Venter was not an impact player for long. After the year-end Tests against Scotland, Ireland and England, Venter was back in the starting lineup when the Boks opened their 1999 season against Italy in Port Elizabeth.

He returned to the bench for the next two Tests - the second one against Italy, and the dramatic loss to Wales in Cardiff. He had to wait for the first Tri-Nations clash against the All Blacks in 1999 before he was once again considered worthy of pulling on the No 7 jersey.

Meanwhile, Springbok coach Harry Viljoen described the decision to drop Venter as "very difficult", but gave the assurance that Venter was still part "of the process.

"I know him well and he will not allow this setback get him down," Viljoen said.

French rugby writers said Viljoen was fortunate to have a game breaker like Venter on the bench. As one of them aptly put it on Thursday: "He will be very hungry once they let him loose."

For Venter, who will turn 31 next week when the Boks will be preparing for their Test against Italy, this tour could be decisive in terms of his Test career.