Rugby: De Villiers favours big game for title defence

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Peter De Villiers. Photo / Richard Robinson
Peter De Villiers. Photo / Richard Robinson

Test experience was the key factor when Springbok coach Peter de Villiers picked 30 men to carry South Africa's hopes of defending their World Cup crown.

Eighteen members of the 2007 title-winning team were included. South Africa's first game is against Wales in Wellington.

Six of the players will be appearing at their third World Cup - captain John Smit, vice-captain Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Jaque Fourie and Danie Rossouw.

The biggest surprises were former Western Province fetcher flank Francois Louw and Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane.

The 26-year-old Louw, who recently signed for Bath, has just seven test caps.

Injuries and having to play behind men such as Burger and Heinrich Brussow have curtailed his international career, but de Villiers no doubt feels he needs another specialist ball-poacher should anything befall the injury-prone Brussow.

His selection means Ashley Johnson, Jean Deysel and Ryan Kankowski have to stay home.

Ndungane, 30, has featured precious little for the Boks over the past few seasons, but has eight caps to his name and has always formed part of the larger Bok training group. His inclusion is at the expense of the less experienced Lwazi Mvovo and Bjorn Basson.

Lock Johan Muller, who has struggled with a hamstring injury this season, gets the nod ahead of Bulls bruiser Flip van der Merwe, while Ruan Pienaar will fulfil the role of utility player.

"The squad has a backbone of proven title-winning ability and experience as well as a strong component of new stars," said de Villiers last night. In total the squad have 1224 test caps.

"Injury has denied us one or two players [Juan Smith and Andries Bekker, in particular] who could have been very important to us, but I am very happy with the squad we have picked. We have good coverage for every position and front-line players who have shown over the past half dozen seasons that they know how to win big games."

The squad has a split of 16 forwards and 14 backs. "This squad has the experience and ability to make a strong challenge for the title, but we know it will be very difficult," said de Villiers.

"It has been a tough season to date and we have had some challenges with the amount of rugby the players have had to play, but I'm very happy with the squad. We are on target with the off-field plans we set in place before the season started."

Pat Lambie (shoulder), Frans Steyn (hamstring) and Burger (hand) were included in the tour party despite nursing injuries. Burger played no part in the Tri-Nations competition, while Lambie and Steyn featured in some of the games.

The Springboks leave for New Zealand next Thursday.

SPRINGBOK SQUAD

Backs: Frans Steyn (43 tests), Gio Aplon (15), Ruan Pienaar (49), Francois Hougaard (10), Pat Lambie (7), JP Pietersen (38), Bryan Babana (70), Odwa Ndungane (8), Jean de Villiers (69), Jaque Fourie (64), Juan de Jongh (8), Morne Steyn (29), Butch James (41), Fourie du Preez (57).

Forwards: Pierre Spies (42), Schalk Burger (63), Francois Louw (7), Willem Alberts (4), Heinrich Brussow (15), Victor Matfield (107), Bakkies Botha (74), Johann Muller (23), Danie Rossouw (58), Jannie du Plessis (26), CJ van der Linde (72), Tendai Mtawarira (28), Gurthro Steenkamp (33), John Smit (106), Bismarck du Plessis (38), Chiliboy Ralepelle (20).

- Independent (SA)

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 21 Dec 2014 18:55:51 Processing Time: 1181ms