With Chilliboy Ralepelle finally enjoying an extended run at hooker in a test match (and making a pretty good fist of it too), the door has opened somewhat for Peter de Villiers to give the youngster a meaningful test start against Italy this weekend.
John Smit, we believe, actually pulled his hammie during the captain’s run before the French game on Saturday and was touch-and-go to play at all. He looked off the pace in the first half and was replaced by Ralapelle as the team’s came out after half-time. There is clearly no sense in risking further injury to Smit – even if he does manage to recover in time – for the series against an Italian side who are never going to trouble the Boks and I would think it makes perfect sense to use these next two matches to allow Rallepele to settle at hooker, with the best tight five the Boks are able to muster around him.
De Villiers has already indicated that he’s going to field somewhat of a weakened team against the Italians, but with Smit unavailable, it remains (to me) pretty important to retain Victor Matfield in the mix, allowing for some continuity of leadership. Bakkies Botha, having served out his ban, can now also be reintroduced slowly, while there don’t appear to be any props outside of the current squad that have a meaningful expectation of selection. That means that the Boks should be able to pick virtually the same tight five as did duty against the French, while allowing players such as Francois Louw, Dewald Potgieter and Ryan Kankowski further chance to develop as the next-in-line loose forwards.
All-in-all, a pretty good position to be in, for the Boks. A player like Tiaan Liebenberg should now hope to come into the squad as hooker cover while Smit is out.Tweet