Boks still positive despite heavy blow

Friday, August 19, 2011

Durban - The Springboks will once again pursue a much needed morale boosting victory in the historical Port Elizabeth Tri-Nations Test.

The Boks would need it now more than ever, following news that looseforward Juan Smith will not be considered for the World Cup squad because of injury.

The defending world champions will take on the All Blacks in their final Tri-Nation Test on Saturday. This is the first time that a Tri-Nations Test is being staged in Port Elizabeth.

Smith made the decision to rule himself out of contention.

"Juan had been in a race against time to be fit and we were keen to give him every opportunity to prove himself available," said Bok coach Peter de Villiers on Thursday.

"He is understandably very disappointed - as are we - but he has made the right decision. A fully fit Juan Smith would have been an enormous asset to our campaign and this is a major disappointment.

"But it was obvious that he was still some way from full fitness and his decision confirms the advice of our medical team. Out of respect for a great Springbok, we wanted to leave the door open until the last moment for him."

Smith injured his Achilles in a Super Rugby match for the Cheetahs in February.

Smith said: "I've worked very hard to get back on the training field but I'm still some way from full fitness and have been training with quite a lot of pain. I'd been trying to tell myself that I'd come right but that wasn't going to happen.

"This is a huge blow to me. The Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of any player's career and I was looking forward to our attempt to become the first team to win the title in successive tournaments."

Meanwhile, five changes have been made to the starting line-up. Victor Matfield will captain South Africa for a 16th time in his record 107th Test appearance.

He will also use the Test to iron out kinks ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which gets underway in a matter of weeks.

"This is our last chance to look at certain combinations before the Rugby World Cup. We've had these changes in mind since we started our planning for the international season, depending on the injury situation," said De Villiers.

There were recalls for flyhalf Morné Steyn, looseforward Willem Alberts, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp. Patrick Lambie replaces the injured Frans Steyn at fullback.

Changes to the bench include CJ van der Linde and Ashley Johnson. Tendai Mtawarira, Danie Rossouw and Butch James are also among the replacements.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said his charges had a great build-up in Port Elizabeth and are feeling refreshed and raring to go.

The team arrived in the country earlier this week and received a massive welcome from their South African fans in Port Elizabeth.

All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu will captain the team for the second time in a Test.
Colin Slade will make his second run-on start in his fifth Test, Jimmy Cowan is at halfback, while in the forwards Liam Messam is at number eight.

Adam Thomson is at openside flanker, Sam Whitelock returns to the second row alongside Ali Williams and John Afoa returns from injury at tighthead prop.

The All Blacks' most capped prop, Tony Woodcock, returns to the front row, while in the backs Richard Kahui is at centre, pairing with Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield for the first time.

Isaia Toeava is on the right wing, and Israel Dagg is at fullback.

Teams

South Africa:

15. Pat Lambie 14. JP Pietersen, 37. 13 Jaque Fourie, 12. Jean de Villiers 11. Bryan Habana 10. Morné Steyn 9. Fourie du Preez 8. Pierre Spies 7 Willem Alberts 6. Heinrich Brüssow 5. Victor Matfield (captain) 4.Bakkies Botha 3. Jannie du Plessis 2. Bismarck du Plessis 1. Gurthrö Steenkamp

Replacements:

16. John Smit 17. Tendai Mtawarira 18. CJ van der Linde 19. Danie Rossouw 20. Ashley Johnson 21 Francois Hougaard 22. Butch James

New Zealand:

15. Israel Dagg 14. Isaia Toeava 13. Richard Kahui 12. Sonny Bill Williams 11. Hosea Gear 10. Colin Slade 9. Jimmy Cowan 8. Liam Messam 7. Adam Thomson 6. Jerome Kaino 5. Ali Williams 4. Samuel Whitelock 3. John Afoa 2. Keven Mealamu (captain)1. Tony Woodcock

Replacements:

16. Andrew Hore 17. Ben Franks 18. Jarrad Hoeata 19. Victor Vito 20. Andy Ellis 21. Piri Weepu 22. Cory Jane

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