Bakkies back in Bok mix

Bakkies Botha has been included in the Springbok starting line-up for the world champions’ Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

It had been thought that South Africa coach Pieter de Villiers would omit Botha, one of the stars of the side that beat England in last year’s World Cup final in Paris, because of a lack of match fitness.

But Botha will once again be alongside Victor Matfield in the second row.

His inclusion was all the more unexpected as a day earlier Springbok doctor Craig Roberts said Botha could only last 30 minutes on the pitch given the lock had been out since August with a knee injury sustained against Argentina.

“He looks to be in good shape and we’re prepared to take a chance with him in the starting line-up. We’ll see how he does,” said de Villiers.

“We are prepared if we have to take him off and we’re prepared for all eventualities.”

In a widely anticipated move John Smit, who retains the captaincy, has moved from hooker to tighthead prop to accommodate the in-form Bismarck du Plessis.

“It’s a major challenge for me, and one I am looking forward to,” said Springbok captain Smit.

“I’m aware I’m coming up against a strong loosehead in Gethin [Jenkins], and he’s likely to be a tough opponent. But that’s what makes the challenge greater.”

De Villiers has made five changes in all to the team that thrashed Australia 53-8 in the Tri-Nations two months ago.

Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira completes the front row while Pierre Spies is preferred to Ryan Kankowski at number eight.

This match is the first of a three-Test tour that sees South Africa playing Scotland on November 15 and England on November 22.

Conrad Jantjes; JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger; Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha; John Smit (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: Brian Mujati, Gurthro Steenkamp, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Ricky Januarie, Francois Steyn, Jaque Fourie—AFP

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