Springbok coach Peter de Villiers named the team everyone expected him to on Thursday, and then delivered what some of the experienced players can regard as a chilling warning ahead of the new international season.
“There is a time to come and a time to go. I am looking to the next four years, and some people may find that their time to go is earlier than expected,” said De Villiers.
Gavin Rich writes on Superrugby that this was after naming a team which excluded stalwarts Percy Montgomery, Victor Matfield and CJ van der Linde from the starting team for the first match against Wales here in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
In all, there were 10 changes to the side that won the World Cup final against England, with not one single combination being retained from that match in Paris. The same can be said for the last team that played under Jake White’s tenure, the convincing win over Wales in Cardiff last November.
As anticipated, Montgomery is replaced by Conrad Jantjes, with Matfield and Van der Linde losing out to two further Stormers players, Andries Bekker and Brian Mujati. Bekker and Mujati are the only new caps in the team, although Adrian Jacobs is back in the midfield after an absence of five years.
With Ricky Januarie being suspended for a disciplinary infraction, Bolla Conradie also comes back for his first Test match since 2005.
A notable omission from the squad is the talented Francois Steyn, which is quite startling if you consider how well Steyn played at last year’s World Cup and his enormous utility value. At the very least you would have imagined that he would be a certainty on the bench.
Another player with utility value, Ruan Pienaar, was also set to miss out, but was recalled when Januarie was suspended.
While De Villiers seemed to be indicating with his comments that the experienced Boks were being phased out, he did also emphasise the enormous value that Matfield had brought to the squad, adding that the big lock had probably made more of a contribution as an outsider than he would have had he been on the playing field.
Luke Watson gets a chance to add to his one cap, earned against Wales last year, by playing in the place of the injured Schalk Burger.
Springbok team: Conrad Jantjes, Tonderai Chavhanga, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Bolla Conradie, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Luke Watson, Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Brian Mujati, John Smit (captain), Gurthro Steenkamp. Bench: Bismarck du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Ruan Pienaar, Peter Grant, Percy Montgomery.Tweet