South Africa have received a major lift for Saturday’s Tri-Nations opener against New Zealand with forwards Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw declared fit and named in their match-day squad.
Botha missed training earlier this week with a hamstring injury but his return, and Rossouw’s inculsion on the bench after he recovered from a hip injury, gives the world champions a significant psychological boost.
“All of the players in the group are fit and available so there were some tough choices to make,” Springboks coach Peter de Villiers said on Thursday ahead of the Eden Park clash. “We are putting a very strong team out there.”
De Villiers, whose side beat the All Blacks three times during last year’s Tri-Nations, said the results were immaterial.
“If you look backwards you will go backwards. Last year’s results are in the past. It will be tough but we expect it to be as it always is against the All Blacks.”
Braced for backlash
South Africa captain John Smit said the Springboks were braced for an All Blacks backlash.
“The All Blacks are going to be as competitive as they were last year, if not more so because of the fact that they didn’t win it,” he said.
“They are the team that has won the Tri-Nations the most out of all three of us. Not winning it really irritates them.”
South Africa will look to force the issue in Saturday’s opening game by using their superior lineout, said vice-captain Victor Matfield, who will join Botha in the second row.
“It is always an area that we will target against any opponent but we will be looking to contest and get a few steals early on to maybe sow a bit of doubt in their minds,” Matfield said.
“The lineout is one of our strengths but we have to be good in all departments against the All Blacks because they are a great team.
“You don’t just pitch up here and expect a win. You have to work for it.”
Meanwhile, the South African Rugby Union has confirmed that the August 21 Tr-Nations match against the All Blacks will be played at Soccer City.
South Africa squad:
Zane Kirchner, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ricky Januarie; Pierre Spies, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, John Smit, Gurthro Steenkamp. Chiliboy Ralepelle, BJ Botha, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Gio Aplon. — Reuters