Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has rolled out the heavy artillery for Saturday’s second Test against Wales here, admitting he is looking to see as many of his players in action ahead of this year’s Tri-Nations competition.
News 24 reports that after beating the Six Nations champions 43-17 in the first Test in Bloemfontein a week ago and before facing Italy next weekend, De Villiers has picked his strongest team to test new combinations and form ahead of the bigger challenges later this year.
The Springboks are set for clashes against Australia and New Zealand in July and August and while still showing respect to Warren Gatland’s men, De Villiers knows there are bigger fish to fry later in the season.
By making four changes to his side, recalling World Cup star Victor Matfield at lock to partner Bakkies Botha, including Ricky Januarie at scrumhalf and opting for the talented Francois Steyn on the replacements bench, the new Bok coach no doubt wants to wrap up the Wales series in style.
De Villiers has also changed his front row – the only area where Wales dominated in the first Test – recalling veteran World Cup star BJ Botha at tighthead and handing Coastal Sharks prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira a debut.
He has also selected the powerful Ryan Kankowski on the bench, along with veteran fullback Percy Montgomery.
“I’m bringing the big guns on to the field so we can build towards the Tri-Nations,” said De Villiers Thursday.
He further admitted the Bok coaching staff had spent a lot more time on the scrumming this week, after their somewhat disappointing performance in this department last week.
“I want to be clear about what we have in the front row before we go overseas (for the Tri-Nations),” De Villiers added.
It certainly looks a stronger Bok team than was the case last week, but they’re expecting a far stronger challenge from the Six Nations champions.
“We’d be foolish to not expect Wales to be stronger this week,” said captain John Smit. “But at the same time, we’re looking to keep on raising our game.” Gatland has also made four changes to his side, bringing in James Hook at fullback and shuffling his back row.
“We believe the back row will give us a combination capable of improving our performance at the breakdown where we need to improve,” said Gatland Thursday. “Some of the combinations are new but we are well aware of the capabilities of the boys we have chosen and we know what options they offer us.”
Besides Hook’s selection, Richard Hibbard comes in at hooker, Rhys Thomas starts at prop and Gareth Delve gets a run at No 8.
“As a coaching team and a squad this week we have learnt a lot of lessons about how to build from our first defeat together and that will make us stronger in the long run,” said Gatland.
With Wales having nothing to play for, but pride and respect, one senses the Springboks, as World Champions and before facing their biggest rivals in New Zealand and Australia, should have too much fire-power for the injury-hit and deflated Wales team.
Conrad Jantjes; Tonderai Chavangha, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Butch James, Ricky Januarie; Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Luke Watson; Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, BJ Botha, John Smit (capt), Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Bolla Conradie, Francois Steyn, Percy Montgomery
James Hook; Mark Jones, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Gareth Cooper; Gareth Delve, Jonathan Thomas, Ryan Jones (capt); Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Gough, Rhys Thomas, Richard Hibbard, Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: T Rhys Thomas, Duncan Jones, Ian Evans, Dafydd Jones, Warren Fury, Andrew Bishop, Tom James