Conrad Jantjes might start for the Springboks ahead of World Cup-winner Percy Montgomery in the first Test against Wales in 10 days time.
The new 30-man Springbok squad’s first training session on Wednesday revealed some clues as to which players Peter de Villiers could pick to start for the Boks in their first Test match under the new coach.
Phil Coetzer of Rugby 365 reports that South African Rugby Union (SARU) President Oregan Hoskins revealed the 30-man Bok squad earlier on Wednesday for the home Test matches against Wales and Italy, after which the Bok squad departed their hotel in Somerset West and headed out to Stellenbosch for an afternoon training session.
The squad of thirty were in good spirits despite the gloomy weather at the Danie Craven Stadium, and took to the practice session in relaxed mode under the watchful eyes of coach De Villiers, and assistant coaches Dick Muir and Gary Gold.
There will be much speculation over which fifteen players De Villiers will ultimately choose to start the first Springbok Test under his guidance.
With JP Pietersen and Johann Muller left out of the squad, the return of Pierre Spies to the fold, and various injuries to players like Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger it is clear that the team will have a distinctly different flavour to the World Cup winners of 2007.
De Villiers had the forwards do line-out drills for much of the practice, as skipper John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis went through their routines with the jumpers.
It is hard to predict who De Villiers will choose in the front row, with BJ Botha, Gürthro Steenkamp, CJ van der Linde, Tendai Mtawarira and Brian Mujati all looking fit and sharp.
The same goes for the rest of the forward pack, where it is anyone’s guess. It is expected that the partnership of Botha and Matfield will continue in the second row, while Luke Watson, Juan Smith and Ryan Kankowski are a good bet for the back row.
But the backline drills revealed something interesting.
Backline coach Dick Muir chose to run backline drills with a Bok ‘A’ line of sorts, including most of the incumbent Bok backs such as Ricky Januarie, Butch James, Jean de Villiers, Francois Steyn and Bryan Habana.
The interesting part was that Conrad Jantjes featured heavily in the attacking drills, while Percy Montgomery formed part of the defensive line including Ruan Pienaar, Odwa Ndungane and Bolla Conradie.
Of course one can’t read too much into a practice session, but the exercise possibly suggested that Jantjes could be in the lead for the No.15 jersey, with Montgomery providing cover from the bench.
If Jantjes were to start against Wales, it would certainly raise some eyebrows, considering Montgomery’s great performances at the World Cup and his good form for club side Perpignan in France’s Top 14 over the past months.
It would also seriously reduce the goal-kicking options in the team – Montgomery has been a world-class exponent in that field for a few years now. James or Steyn would presumably take over goal-kicking duties.
At flyhalf, Butch James and Peter Grant were continually swapped in the attacking drills.
If Grant were to lift James from the pivot position, it would create a similar reaction, as James was also a stalwart in France last year. On top of that, James has been in fantastic nick with English side Bath, and he will also have the added benefit of having first hand experience of many of the Welsh players, who he would have encountered during Bath’s successful domestic and European season.
Fit-again Tonderai Chavhanga was another new face to take part in the attacking drills, and he must be a firm favourite to start on the wing.
One notable absentee from training was the hulking figure of Bakkies Botha.
“Bakkies has gone home for personal reasons,” Springbok communications manager Chris Hewitt told rugby365.com.
“But he is fit and ready to go, and will be rejoining the squad as soon as possible,” Hewitt added.
Springbok squad for Wales and Italy:
Backs: Gcobani Bobo, Tonderai Chavhanga, Bolla Conradie, Jean de Villiers, Peter Grant, Bryan Habana, Adrian Jacobs, Butch James, Conrad Jantjes, Ricky Januarie, Percy Montgomery, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Steyn.
Forwards: Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, BJ Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Brian Mujati, Danie Rossouw, John Smit (captain), Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Gürthro Steenkamp, CJ van der Linde, Joe van Niekerk, Luke WatsonTweet