/ 6 November 2007

Skinstad quits rugby ahead of tour

The Springbok rugby selectors, who on Tuesday sat down to pick the side for the two-match tour of Wales and England later this month, will not have included loose forward Bob Skinstad in the touring team. The 50th Springbok captain has retired with immediate effect.

With the squad expected to count between 26 and 30 players, it is unlikely that Skinstad will be replaced for the short tour.

Springbok coach Jake White has indicated he does not want to cap new players, and with his World Cup loose forwards who were on the field — Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Danie Rossouw and Wikus van Heerden — all available, the selectors will probably not select someone like Jacques Cronje, who earlier stood in for the ill Pierre Spies and injured Rossouw.

However, Os du Randt, who has also retired, could be replaced in the side. BJ Botha, who was injured during the World Cup campaign and replaced by Jannie du Plessis, looks likely to replace the veteran of four World Cups — this despite the fact that Botha is a tighthead and Du Randt a loosehead.

Gurthro Steenkamp is likely to start at loosehead, with CJ van der Linde, who scrums on both sides, his back-up.

It is also a moot point whether White will include three hookers, with Gary Botha the man most likely to lose out. Botha now seems to be available to tour after it was initially thought his commitments to London Harlequins would prevent him from doing so.

If the selectors decide Percy Montgomery has not recovered sufficiently from his thigh injury, Ruaan Pienaar could be moved to fullback. White might even give wing JP Pietersen a run there, or Frans Steyn could be moved from inside centre with Wynand Olivier replacing him.

Skinstad announced his retirement on Tuesday morning.

In a press statement, the former Springbok and Stormers captain thanked the Sharks for getting him fit enough to be part of the World Cup-winning squad.

”I never doubted my desire to want to play for the Springboks again, but knew it was a privilege that had to be earned, and at this time I want to say a special thanks to the coaches, conditioning staff and players at the Sharks who embraced my presence and reaffirmed my belief that nothing is impossible.

”To Jake [White], John [Smit] and every Springbok squad member, 2007 will forever be among the most special in Springbok history. I feel honoured to have been a part of an amazing group of people and thank you for believing that I had a role to play, whether it was on the field or in a support role within the squad dynamic.

”Rugby has given me many privileges, of which the greatest has been experiencing the camaraderie of teammates and the affection of supporters, in South Africa and abroad.

”There were opportunities for 2008, both in Europe and in South Africa, but I know the time is right to say goodbye as a player. I will never lose the spirit of rugby and I know that I will continue an involvement in the game in some or other form.” — Sapa