John Smit drops to Bok bench for All Blacks encounter
Peter de Villiers has made five changes to the Springbok side that went down to the Wallabies last weekend. Most significant of those is the demotion of John Smit to role of benchwarmer and promotion of highly rated understudy, Bismarck du Plessis. STYLI CHARALAMBOUS analyses the Bok starting line-up for their final Tri-Nations encounter.
In the match against Australia last week, initial Bok fervour and dominance gave way to fatigue and rustiness as the Wallabies ran out 14-9 victors at Kings Park. And judging by the media and public’s reaction, one would have expected a different score-line to the one that showed the Boks losing by just five points.
But many were hoping, no, expecting, the Boks to put in a performance that would restore the country’s faith in their chances to retain the Webb Elis trophy. Instead they dished up a performance that exemplified the amount of time that had lapsed since these stalwarts had last played international rugby together.
The media was particularly harsh on burly Frans Steyn and Butch James who failed to show up for the all-important match day at Kings Park. So out came the selection knife, under the guise of rotating the squad of 30 players the coaches have earmarked as potential World Cup tourists.
Bismark du Plessis gets his first start in a Bok jersey since November 2010 with veteran captain and hooker, John Smit, warming the substitute’s bench in Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Victor Matfield will take the reins of the Springbok team for the 17th time in his 107th test match, while further extending the international locking partnership record that he and Bakkies Botha hold.
Exciting youngster, Pat Lambie has been handed another start, this time at fullback, following a hamstring injury to incumbent Steyn, who looked sluggish last week in Durban. Many pundits blamed Steyn’s burly frame and the slower pace of French club rugby for his poor performance. Either way, it may be wise for him to lay off the croissants and possibly invest in a haircut whilst he undergoes rehabilitation.
Gurthro Steenkamp completes the revamped front row line-up that took a beating once Smit moved to tighthead prop against the Wallabies. Even with the expected second-string look about the All Blacks, the front row will no doubt face a stern test as scrummaging power and technique has always been a hallmark of New Zealand rugby.
Morne Steyn is preferred to Butch James at flyhalf to see if he can redeem himself with the services of South Africa’s premier scrum-half and forward pack slightly more adept at handling the opposition. In Steyn’s previous Bok outing in Sydney, a lethargic Ruan Pieanar and the outplayed pack of forwards did nothing to help the pivot get his backline over the advantage line.
This is a game the Boks will be dying to win. Mainly to restore public faith in the team’s chances of winning the world cup, but also to prove to themselves that even a rusty Bok team should be able to beat the All Blacks AA+ team away from home.
Springboks – 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 John Smit, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Butch James. DM