Dick Muir has named his team to take on the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday and last year’s top try scorer, JP Pietersen, is the only casualty.
Pietersen has put in some good defensive performances this year; in particular his fielding of the high ball seems vastly improved. On attack, though, he has appeared sluggish and disinterested, failing to score a single try after seven starts. His place on the left wing goes to regular outside center Waylon Murray, a man who himself is desperate for some sort of form. Muir clearly feels that a spell on the wing will suit the hard-running Murray and may help him to find his way again.
In an otherwise unchanged backline, Frans Steyn continues at outside center, a position in which he showed some promising touches against the Hurricanes. Ruan Pienaar, Fred Michalak and Brad Barritt occupy the inside positions and they will need to do far more with ball in hand this week, should the conditions prove conducive to running rugby. Odwa Ndungane and Stefan Terblanche were both solid in Wellington and retain their spots at right wing and fullback respectively.
The pack is unchanged as well, with BJ Botha starting again at tighthead, alongside Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira. Steven Sykes will again be captain Johann Muller’s partner in the second row, while the loose trio of Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and Ryan Kankowski pretty much picks itself these days.
There’s a welcome return to the squad for prop Deon Carstens, who is one of three front-rankers on the bench, together with Craig Burden and Jannie du Plessis. Albert van den Berg and AJ Venter are the other forwards on the bench, leaving just Rory Kockott and Adrian Jacobs to cover the backs.
The approach seems clear: establish and maintain total forward dominance throughout and then let the backs see what they can do with the resulting surfeit of possession. I predict a long evening for the Highlanders,Tweet