De Villiers shows his hand

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.

Towards the end of the season he did start to show signs that he was returning to his best form, and that opened the way for his inclusion into the expanded Bok training squad.

However, he was expected to make the 30-man squad that will do duty in the Tests against Wales and Italy on the strength of his World Cup form last season.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said it was evident from Pietersen’s Super 14 form that he had not been managed well and that his physical condition had suffered.

“There is something wrong with his [Pietersen] conditioning,” De Villiers explained. “We would rather condition him and make him more competitive for the Lions tour next year, and the Tri-Nations.

“The decision [to drop him] was done purely for the player’s well-being and future.

“He’s still very young and the demands that this game puts on the body are huge.

“We need to look after the guy.”

Three other World Cup-winning Springboks also failed to make the squad. They are lock Johann Muller, centre Wynand Olivier and wing Akona Ndungane.

Sharks captain Muller has had a good Super 14 season and could feel aggrieved that he failed to make the cut.
He was, however, troubled by injury towards the end of the Super 14 competition.

Apart from his outstanding line-out skills, he also offers captaincy potential, something that was acknowledged by De Villiers’s predecessor Jake White. Muller captained the Boks on occasions last season.

The Springbok squad includes four uncapped players in Odwa Ndungane, Andries Bekker and two of the three Zimbabweans in the squad, Tendai Mtawirira and Brian Mujati.

Squad

Backs: Gcobani Bobo, Tonderai Chavhanga, Bolla Conradie, Jean de Villiers, Peter Grant, Bryan Habana, Adrian Jacobs, Butch James, Conrad Jantjes, Ricky Januarie, Percy Montgomery, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar and Francois Steyn.

Forwards:

Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, BJ Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Brian Mujati, Danie Rossouw, John Smit (c), Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Gurthrö Steenkamp, CJ van der Linde, Joe van Niekerk and Luke Watson.—Sapa

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