New Zealand v South Africa, Tri-Nations, Auckland, July 10
Springboks at full strength for opener
July 8, 2010
South Africa's Pierre Spies raises a smile during the team announcement in Auckland © Getty Images
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers has been able to pick what he described as his best side to the face the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations opener in Auckland on Saturday night after forwards Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw were declared fit to play.
De Villiers had delayed the naming of his 22 from Tuesday until today because of injury doubts over the pair.
"They came through quite nice and everybody in the squad is available so we could make a choice and deliver the best team on the field," he said.
Botha will take his uncompromising approach into the starting XV, where he will lock the scrum with Bulls teammate and lineout maestro Victor Matfield.
"Bakkies with Victor, they form a formidable combination," De Villiers said. "They understand each other and Bakkies will always bring that something extra. For us, it's a plus to have him available."
Rossouw has been included among the reserves, as has giant Stormers lock Andries Bekker, with the pair adding to South Africa's lineout options. De Villiers said Rossouw and Bekker had earned their spots through their Super 14 performances, which he described as outstanding.
"We are blessed to have a guy like Danie to fall back on if anything happens to the back three and he can cover lock," he said. "Andries had a good Super 14 and I can't wait to let him loose on the field."
In the backs, De Villiers has opted to break up the successful midfield partnership from last year of Jean de Villiers and Jacque Fourie. Instead, Jean de Villiers moves to the right wing, with Wynand Oliver coming in at inside centre. The Fourie-Oliver combination was used once during the Springboks' four tests last month, in the 42-17 victory over France in Cape Town. De Villiers again said Super 14 form played a large part in the choice of pairing for Eden Park.
"I think they deserve the trust they earned," he said. "The way we want to play, I think that's the right combination."
Like the All Blacks, the Springboks won't lack for experience. While New Zealand's starting XV has a record combined total of 671 caps, South Africa's isn't far behind with 661. Skipper and hooker John Smit (96) and Matfield (95) lead the way, while five others - Jean de Villiers, fellow-winger Bryan Habana, Fourie, blindside flanker Schalk Burger and Botha - have all passed 50 test appearances.
De Villiers said having a full complement to choose from had made his job more difficult, especially in having to explain those on the cusp why they had missed out.
"Last year, it was easier, we only had the starting XV and the seven on the bench," he said. "This year, in almost all the positions, you have to sit down and think what is best for this test."
Meanwhile, De Villiers indicated that the Springboks' 3-0 sweep over New Zealand last year hadn't been a factor his camp's buildup.
"If you live in the past, I don't think you have any hope for the future," he said. "We've put those things behind our back. We are only concentrating on what is happening on Saturday. You can't live on past successes."
South Africa: Z Kirchner (Bulls); J de Villiers (Western Province), J Fourie (Stormers), W Olivier (Bulls), B Habana (Stormers); M Steyn (Bulls), R Januarie (Stormers); G Steenkamp (Bulls), J Smit (Sharks, capt), J du Plessis (Sharks), B Botha (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), F Louw (Stormers), P Spies (Bulls)
Replacements: C Ralepelle (Bulls), BJ Botha (Ulster), A Bekker (Stormers), D Rossouw (Bulls), R Pienaar (Sharks), B James (Bath), G Aplon (Stormers)