Springboks out to take control
July 31, 2009
Bryan Habana will win his 50th cap this weekend © Getty Images
Peter de Villiers' Springboks will be out to secure rare back-to-back victories over New Zealand in Durban on Saturday following their powerful 28-19 victory over the All Blacks in Bloemfontein last time out.
The brutal power of the Springbok pack was highlighted last weekend with a first-half barrage against an All Blacks side that struggled at the lineout and was put on the back-foot by a stunning performance from openside Heinrich Brussow.
With a Test against Australia in Cape Town on August 8, the Boks will fiercely want to secure three wins from their home games before heading out on tour.
Graham Henry will be keenly aware of his side's deficiencies in the set-piece, but has not decided to alter his pack aside from an enforced change at tight-head, where Owen Franks will make his first start in place of the injured Neemia Tialata. Andrew Hore retains his place at hooker despite two wayward performances, while Isaac Ross and Brad Thorn have been tasked with better containing the rampant Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha.
Brendon Leonard's rusty performance in Bloemfontein has seen Jimmy Cowan recalled to the No.9 jersey, while Stephen Donald starts at fly-half. Donald will have had one eye on Dan Carter's return to action with Canterbury this weekend, but will be confident that he can produce the excellent form shown against the Springboks last weekend and the Wallabies in their opening game.
The home side have also been forced in to a change, with fly-half Ruan Pienaar failing to recover from the ankle injury picked up during last weekend's showdown. His place is taken by Morne Steyn, who will be hoping to punish the All Blacks should their indiscipline resurface at Kings Park.
Jean de Villiers was a doubt after limping off at Free State Stadium, but fears over his fitness were allayed when his injury was shown to be cramp. The Munster-bound centre starts alongside last weekend's winning try-scorer Jaque Fourie, and will win his 50th cap. Joining him in achieving this milestone is winger Bryan Habana, who starts in an unchanged back-three alongside Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen.
Reinforcements have arrived on the replacements bench, where both centre Adi Jacobs and lock Andries Bekker are included. Both players will make their first appearances of the Tri-Nations if called upon.
All Black skipper Richie McCaw knows that the pressure is on his stuttering side, but is looking to last weekend's second-half fightback for inspiration. He is expecting his charges to show their resilience back at sea level this weekend.
"Come Monday, we looked at the game and knew we hadn't played as well as we could have," said McCaw. "Now whoever you're playing for, that's bloody disappointing. But here, you expect everyone to perform.
"We made vital mistakes all the way through that never allowed us to really put pressure on the Boks. "When you throw lineouts and penalties into it, they were the things that started to cost us and we just didn't get a roll-on or put any pressure on. There was perhaps a period just before they scored their late try when we really started to get going."
South Africa: Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit (capt), Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brüssow, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Ricky Januarie, Adi Jacobs, Wynand Olivier
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Joe Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Isaac Ross, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa, Jason Eaton, Kieran Read, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Cory Jane
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery