Kankowski set for Springbok debut

South Africa captain John Smit and star wing Bryan Habana are among nine members of the Springboks’ victorious World Cup final starting XV named to face Wales in Saturday’s one-off rugby union international at the Millennium Stadium.

Although several players are missing from the two-match tour—South Africa play the Barbarians in a non-cap international at Twickenham a week on Saturday—their side still contains plenty of experienced campaigners.

As well as Smit and Habana, the World Player of the Year, fellow World Cup final starters JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie and Francois Steyn are in the backs while up front talented back-rowers Schalk Burger and Juan Smith together, with lock Bakkies Botha and prop CJ van der Line, help form a powerful pack.

The only new cap in the side is Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski.

This match, where the teams will be competing for the inaugural Prince William Cup, will be South Africa’s first since they beat England 15-6 to win the Webb Ellis Trophy in Paris on October 20.

In all the team shows six changes and a positional switch from the one that triumphed at the Stade de France. Among those missing against Wales will be goal kicking fullback Percy Montgomery, impressive half-back duo Butch James and Fourie du Preez, number eight Danie Rossouw and lock Victor Matfield.

Ruan Pienaar takes the injured Montgomery’s place with Andre Pretorius and Ricky Januarie providing the new half-back pairing.

Kankowski is the only player from outside the World Cup squad in the starting XV. His call-up came about following the withdrawal of the injured Rossouw and Wikus van Heerden, while the retirement of Bobby Skinstad and the continuing recovery of Pierre Spies also created a back-row space.

In the front row CJ van der Linde moves to loosehead prop following the retirement of legendary prop Os du Randt while Johann Muller takes Matfield’s lock spot.

Front-row forward Heinke van der Merwe, on the bench, is included in the Springbok match-day 22 for the first time.

Saturday’s fixture will be South Africa coach Jake White’s final full international in charge before he steps down next month.

White said recently he wanted to take time to consider his future although he has been linked with a number of jobs, including a position with England.

Wales caretaker coach Nigel Davies, who hands over to Warren Gatland next week, named his side on Tuesday for what will be the hosts’ first Test since a 38-34 defeat at the hands of Fiji saw them fail to reach the World Cup quarterfinals—a loss which led to the exit of former coach Gareth Jenkins.

Ospreys centre Gavin Henson is now set to make his first Wales start for more than a year while Llanelli fullback Morgan Stoddart is the only debutant in the starting line-up.—Sapa-AFP

Team: Ruan Pienaar; JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana; Andre Pretorius, Ricky Januarie; Ryan Kankowski, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger; Johann Muller, Bakkies Botha; Jannie Du Plessis, John Smit (captain), CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Heinke van der Merwe, Albert van den Berg, Hilton Lobberts, Wynand Olivier, Conrad Jantjes, Akona Ndungane

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