Stage set for Watson return
June 2, 2008
One of South African rugby's greatest controversies in recent years could get a new twist this week as Luke Watson lines up in the Springbok team to take on Wales in the first test in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Watson was last year forced into former coach Jake White's training group before playing his only test against Samoa, where he performed adequately before sustaining a rib injury that bothered him for the rest of the season.
The media circus was unrelenting and Watson, stripped of the captaincy at the Stormers this year, was taken completely out of the spotlight, with no interviews granted.
In addition, he was moved to No 8 by astute coach Rassie Erasmus, and put in a series of excellent performances, impressing with his work-rate and yardage won.
As such, no fuss was made when Watson made the Bok group on his merits, and following injury to Schalk Burger he is in line again for a start in his favoured openside flank berth.
New Bok coach Peter de Villiers will reveal his hand later this week, but it is generally accepted that Watson will be part of the group to take on Wales.
The rest of the loose-trio could comprise Juan Smith at flank and Pierre Spies at No 8.
The front row could also have a new look about it, with Gurthrö Steenkamp set to replace the retired Os du Randt at loosehead. Zimbabwean-born Brian Mujati should take on the tighthead spot, with John Smit leading the side from hooker.
In the second row, it would be surprising if De Villiers goes with any other combination than the brilliant pairing of Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield. Let it be said, though, that Andries Bekker had a terrific Super14 with the Stormers and should be on the bench.
With Fourie du Preez injured, Ricky Januarie is set to be rewarded for his form at scrumhalf, and could pair with Bath man Butch James at flyhalf.
Jean de Villiers will fill one of the centre berths, but there is probably a bit of uncertainty over the other following the injury to Jaque Fourie.
Frans Steyn and Adrian Jacobs are expected to battle it out for that jersey.
The wings - Bryan Habana and Tonderai Chavhanga - pick themselves on Super14 form.
At fullback it's a toss-up between Conrad Jantjes and Percy Montgomery. If the former is chosen, one of the flyhalves (James or Peter Grant) will have to do the goalkicking.
Possible Bok side: Conrad Jantjes, Tonderai Chavhanga, Frans Steyn, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Ricky Januarie, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Luke Watson, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Brian Mujati, John Smit (capt), Gurthrö Steenkamp.