South African Rugby
Overseas stars left out of Springboks squad
October 25, 2008
Ruan Pienaar, fresh from Currie Cup glory with the Sharks, will fill the Boks 10 jersey © Getty Images
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers dumped his overseas stars in favour of a home-based squad for next month's tour of England, Wales and Scotland.
De Villiers snubbed World Cup heroes Butch James, who currently plays at Bath, and CJ van der Linde, who has moved to Leinster since the Tri Nations, and will go into the tour lacking experience at fly-half. Ruan Pienaar, who has played scrum-half, wing and full-back in his international career, has been nominated by De Villiers as the first-choice fly-half for the Springboks on the trip.
Pienaar does not play regularly in the position for his province, the Sharks, and is largely untested at the top level in the decision-making role. De Villiers caused a surprise by naming Lions fly-half Earl Rose in the squad, despite being told that Rose is not ready for international competition. Two weeks ago, Rose's provincial coach Eugene Eloff publicly stated that the young fly-half's inconsistent form meant it was not right to subject him to international competition.
But De Villiers disagrees and has left out Tri Nations back-up Peter Grant in the process. "Ruan will be our number one fly-half,'' the Boks coach said. "He's very talented and can suit our new style of running rugby. Earl is also a very good player, and he will bring that 'X-factor' to the side.'' De Villiers also announced that captain John Smit would be playing tighthead on the tour, so that the Boks can use the in-form hooker Bismarck du Plessis in the same front row.
"We need John to possibly go through to the next World Cup and for that reason he'll move to tighthead. That will hopefully give him a longer career. Hopefully it's something that will work. Otherwise I'm in trouble,'' De Villiers added.
De Villiers revealed his decision to leave out James and Van der Linde was based on a desire to experiment before the British and Irish Lions Tour next summer. He said: "It's great to know we have a guy of Butch's calibre to call on, but we have to look to the future. This is still an important tour but we want to try a few things before the Lions tour.''
De Villiers handed a place to uncapped flanker Heinrich Brussow, who excelled for the Cheetahs in Super 14 and Currie Cup rugby this season. The 22-year-old travels in the place of the controversial Luke Watson, who on Saturday made himself unavailable for the tour.
Watson, who still has to face a disciplinary hearing for alleged comments he made at a rugby function on October 3, released a statement declaring himself out of the running. ``After serious consideration and prayer, I have decided to withdraw my availability for the national rugby side for the end of year overseas rugby tour,'' Watson said in a statement to Independent Newspapers.
"I wish to state that I have been extremely disappointed by the propagandistic campaign levelled against me. I am of the firm belief that those who instigated the orchestrated media campaign to vilify me were detracting from the real issue at hand, that being transformation in rugby.
"It is very clear to me that a hidden hand is at work crafting spurious allegations and half truths as to what I was purported to have said.
"The very same group of instigators has conducted a trial by media, without affording me an opportunity for stating my case at the appropriate time and in the proper forum, given this trial by media to do so at this stage serves no purpose.
"I am withdrawing due to the ongoing controversy that has been deliberately created as a result of my stance on matters of transformation.''