The absence of the world’s best lineout jumper, and that of the most reliable goal kicker, could be the main features of the first South African Test rugby team of the Peter de Villiers era.
Pieter Jordaan writes in Volksblad that the team to play Wales here on Saturday will be announced on Thursday and De Villiers is likely to spring a surprise or two in his first Test as Springbok coach.
Chances are that Andries Bekker will make his international debut as Bakkies Botha’s lock partner and that veterans Victor Matfield and Percy Montgomery will be on the bench.
De Villiers said earlier this week he was still contemplating whether to include World Cup star Matfield or young Bekker as Botha’s lock partner.
The new coach also indicated that there might be a surprise or two. This could turn out to be an unexpected omission or an unpredicted inclusion.
Montgomery, who holds the SA record of 94 Test appearances, has been one of the most accurate goal kickers in the world in recent seasons. If he is not in the starting line-up on Saturday, flyhalf Butch James will have to handle the kicking duties.
Conrad Jantjes will then be the fullback in the run-on team.
James has been playing for Bath during the European season and is said to have taken only four kicks at goal because England’s Olly Barkley is the team’s No 1 kicker.
De Villiers wants the Springboks to beat the Welsh by playing attacking rugby but it will be risky to entrust the kicking duties to someone who has not been a regular kicker for nearly a year.
Wales have Stephen Jones and James Hook (bench) to rely on. Between them, they slotted 32 goal kicks during the Six Nations competitions.
The Welsh team was announced last Sunday. That South Africa’s squad of 22 will be named only on Thursday does not indicate that the Springboks have injury problems.
The team’s spokesperson, Chris Hewitt, said on Wednesday Juan Smith should be training flat out on Thursday after taking it easy for a few days because of a slight calf-muscle injury.
The Springboks had the day off on Wednesday. Some left early to go hunting and others merely relaxed.
Star flanker Schalk Burger, who has been out of contention because of a knee injury, joined the other 30 players on Wednesday. He may be fit in time to be considered for the Test against Italy on June 28.
“Schalk has responded well to treatment and has started running,” team doctor Craig Roberts said.
De Villiers wants Burger to be part of the squad so that he can get accustomed to the team’s lineout calls and moves.Tweet