I arrived in Wellington at about the same time that the Boks named the most experienced team in Springbok history for their Rugby World Cup 2011 quarterfinal against Australia in This very city on Sunday.
It is a combination featuring 836 caps, surpassing the previous record of 815 posted against Wales in the team’s opening match of the tournament.
Captain John Smit and loosehead prop Gurthrö Steenkamp return to the front row, while Jean de Villiers resumes his place in the No 12 jersey in place of Frans Steyn, who suffered a tournament-ending shoulder injury in the 13-5 victory over Samoa.
Only Pat Lambie, Morne Steyn and Heinrich Brüssow of the starting team were not involved in RWC 2007, while Pierre Spies was originally selected but had to withdraw due to illness.
Bismarck du Plessis drops to the bench where he is joined by CJ van der Linde, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw. Francois Hougaard retains his place among the back replacements where he is joined by flyhalf Butch James and outside back Gio Aplon.
Bakkies Botha was not considered for selection due to the recurrence of an Achilles Heel injury suffered during training on Wednesday. It was subsequently decided that his Word Cup is over and that he will be returning home. No replacement has been named yet.
Sunday’s match kicks off at 18h00 (07h00 SA time).
South Africa v Australia, 9 October 2011, Wellington Regional Stadium
15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Willem Alberts, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon
It’s a bloody strong Bok side, and certainly one that I believe can beat the Aussies – if they play well!
I like the fact that Div has picked his loosehead and gone with CJ on the bench in 4/3 split. It gives the side better balance and CJ is a good call as he can play both sides. I would have started with Beast as I think he is the better scrummager and that is one area you want to attack the Aussies, but one can hardly fault Steenkamp’s performances.
I also would have started with Hougaard on the wing, especially as there is some doubt re JP’s fitness. Hougaard gives the Boks the attacking flair the tend to lack, especially now that Frans Steyn is out the mix. He does offer the Boks a lot off the bench though …
It’s fantastic to see Aplon on the bench, but with Lambie able to play flyhalf, I would have had the equally exciting Juan de Jongh on the bench instead of James, who has looked to be a yard or two off the pace.
No coach will ever please everyone, but it is good to see the reasoning behind every selection. The Boks have the momentum and confidence they lacked in the Tri-nations, and that is the reason I think they can turn those reverses around, but my word, they are going to have to play well. With Iaone, Moore and Pocock (especially) back in the canary yellow, that Aussie side will be very different to the one that lost shaker the Irish …