The nature of Test rugby is that it tends to run in four-year cycles, centred on the mammoth spectacle of the World Cup. The Springboks face the next three-and-a-half years as World Cup defending champions, a lofty pedestal that has proven very difficult to defend in the past.
JP Pietersen's lack of form in the Super 14 season has cost him a place in the Springbok squad that was named in Somerset West on Wednesday. The Sharks' World Cup-winning wing failed to score a try in the 2008 series after he finished the 2007 Super 14 season as the leading try scorer.
Isma-eel Dollie as one of a few lesser surprises in the Springbok training squad of 42 members that was named on Saturday night. The new Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, has included a number of players who are not regulars for their Super 14 franchises or who had limited opportunities because of injury this season.
It looks like the closely fought endgame of the Super 14 might turn Saturday's announcement of the 45-man Springbok squad into something of a damp squib. Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will want to avoid disrupting the semifinal preparations of the Sharks and Stormers and will postpone naming players from those squads.
The Bulls combined strong forward play with outstanding defence to record a 28-17 win over the ACT Brumbies in the penultimate round of the 2008 edition of the Super 14 competition. The defending champions from South Africa, who led 18-10 at the break, outscored the men from Australia three tries to two.
Champions Bulls beat the second-placed New South Wales Waratahs 16-13 in a Super 14 match on Saturday. The result helped the struggling Bulls to move up a slot into 10th place, while the Waratahs retained their position in the standings. They lie 10 points behind the Canterbury Crusaders courtesy of a losing bonus point.
The Western Force came from a long way behind to snatch a thrilling 15-14 win over the Bulls in Perth on Friday night. Down 14-3 at half-time and staring down the barrel when still trailing by four points and with the Bulls in possession with just two minutes to go, the Force scored the winning try through rugby league convert Ryan Cross in the 79th minute.
Bulls loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg will become the most capped Bulls player in Super rugby when he takes the field against the Western Force in Perth on Friday. Wannenburg, who was selected as flank alongside Wikus van Heerden, will surpass Victor Matfield's record of 77 matches for the franchise.
Pierre Spies has been included in the Bulls side to play the Blues in a Super 14 match in Auckland on Saturday. The inclusion of the Springbok number eight is a major boost for the defending champions, who have won only two of their six matches to date and were outplayed by two of the competition's weaker sides over the past two weekends.
The Waikato Chiefs ran away with a 43-27 win over the Northern Bulls in a Super 14 rugby match that came alight with a flurry of second-half tries in New Zealand on Saturday. Their third win from six matches produced Chiefs' first bonus point of the season and lifted them from 10th to eighth on the ladder.
The Bulls will be without Bryan Habana for their Super 14 match against the Chiefs in Roturua on Saturday. The 2007 IRB Player of the Year has not been considered due to a recurrence of a shoulder injury, and Danwel Demas will replace him on the left wing.
The Bulls have included their fit-again World Cup Springboks Bakkies Botha and Akona Ndungane in the team to play the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday in a repeat of last year's Super 14 final. Their inclusion was expected, pending their fitness, but coach Frans Ludeke made a surprise selection of Morne Steyn at flyhalf, while giving Springbok Derick Hougaard a rest.
The Bulls have included three of their previously injured World Cup Springboks in the side to play the Lions in a warm-up match in Windhoek on Saturday. Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp and Akon Ndungane have all been given the green light, and the starting line-up is arguably the best Frans Ludeke could have selected.
"I want to be honest with South Africa and say that the appointment was not entirely made for rugby reasons. We as an organisation have made the appointment and taken into account the issue of transformation very, very seriously when we made it. I don't think that tarnishes Peter -- I'm just being honest with our country."
The Bulls' chances of defending their Super 14 rugby title suffered a blow Monday when inside centre Wayne Julies was ruled out of the competition with a knee injury. Team doctor Tommie Smook, who will stay on with the Bulls until the end of the Super 14, on Monday said Julies had to undergo an operation and will not be able to play for at least six months.