Pierre Spies and Fourie du Preez appear to have the inside lane to start at No 8 and scrumhalf respectively for the Springboks in next Saturday’s Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
By Ashfak Mohamed
There had been much conjecture over who would wear the No 8 jersey after Sharks loose forward Ryan Kankowski displayed almost irresistible form during the Currie Cup.
Spies, however, has not been able to produce the same form he showed in Tests against England last year since being diagnosed with a blood-clotting illness, which forced him to withdraw from the World Cup squad.
At yesterday’s only practice session at UCT in the morning, after the afternoon practice had been cancelled, the Boks ran in team formations for the first time this week, with Spies running at No 8 in the “probables” team and Kankowski the opposing No 8.
Only towards the end of the session did Spies move to openside flank for Heinrich Brussow.
The Free State fetcher was standing in for Schalk Burger, who missed practice for the second day in a row with a hamstring niggle. Kankowski then packed down at No 8.
Spies was also at No 8 in the “probables” team during a scrumming session.
Spies certainly possesses greater physical qualities than Kankowski, which may give the Bulls star the advantage. The Boks are preparing themselves for a massive physical onslaught from Wales, Scotland and England, especially at scrum time.
Both coach Peter de Villiers and captain John Smit said this week that the expected wet and muddy conditions would mean that the Boks had to ensure that their first-phase play was in order.
“The tight five may need to work harder in the expected conditions,” said Smit.
“It is a short tour, and that will help with what we can bring to the party. It will come down to the physicality we can bring to the game, and getting over the advantage line.
“England, with (team manager) Martin Johnson there, will have a massive pack and their tight five will be strong. But from a video point of view, we’ll have a bit more because we play them last.”
De Villiers said that the Boks must adapt to any possible conditions.
“The (expected wet) conditions are not a concern at all. Rugby is played in all types of conditions. You prepare for a nice, sunny day, and then you get rain. It is rather about how our technical stuff will go, and we are focusing on that,” he said.
Du Preez ran at scrumhalf in the “probables” team yesterday, with Januarie his opponent. Du Preez missed the early part of the international season because of a hand injury sustained in the Super 14, making his comeback against Argentina, when he showed impressive form.
But he was not at his sharpest against the All Blacks at Newlands and the Wallabies in Johannesburg, although he showed glimpses of his best form in the Currie Cup.
Januarie was the hero for the Boks in the historic victory over the All Blacks in Dunedin, and was in terrific form until the Argentina Test, when he looked flat.
In a boost for the Boks, inside centre Jean de Villiers took full part in training yesterday after missing Wednesday’s session with a stomach bug.
Loose-head prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira sat out parts of the session and did some fitness work on his own, but then participated fully in a scrumming session.
De Villiers and Smit said that the off-field controversies about the Springbok emblem, the Luke Watson saga and the sex tape allegations against the Bok coach would not cause any disruption to the team.
“If you look at our performances on the field, then I agree with you (that we’ve been shaky). I think we should have won a few games that we didn’t win,” said De Villiers.
“That’s the only thing that matters. I was appointed on January 9 to coach rugby. There are people who were appointed after me who need to do the other stuff off the field, and they are busy with that. We will focus on what we have to do.”
Smit echoed his coach’s words.
“We didn’t win enough games this year, but we have these three Tests to end off the year. There are six Tests before we take on the Lions, and three are against teams whose players will make up the bulk of the Lions side,” he said.
“It would be naive of any of us to think that this tour is not important. We will go there to win games and try and create some momentum for next year.”
The Boks leave for the tour today.
Possible Springbok starting team against Wales: Conrad Jantjes, J P Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit (capt), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Courtesy of IOL: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=6&click_id=4&art_id=vn20081031073016142C578616Tweet