Boks drop Smit to bench for All Blacks Test

South Africa dropped veteran captain John Smit to the bench on Tuesday amid five changes to its starting lineup for Saturday’s Tri-Nations Test against defending champion New Zealand.

Smit was replaced by Bismarck du Plessis, while lock Victor Matfield will captain the team for the 16th time in his 107th Test.

Fullback Patrick Lambie, flyhalf Morne Steyn, flanker Willem Alberts and prop Gurthro Steenkamp were also called into the 15 for the Springboks’ final game before the start of their World Cup defense next month.

South Africa is 0-3 in this year’s Tri-Nations and in danger of going through the tournament winless for the first time ever.

Butch James, Danie Rossouw, Tendai Mtawarira and Smit — who all started last weekend’s 14-9 defeat by Australia — were named on the bench by coach Peter de Villiers.

Lambie replaces Frans Steyn, who was ruled out against the No 1-ranked All Blacks in Port Elizabeth with a hamstring injury.

Smit left the field against the Wallabies with an elbow injury and was also struggling with a cold before the All Blacks test. Coach De Villiers said it was always part of the Boks’ World Cup planning to rest the 34-year-old hooker for the final game of the Tri-Nations after he started all three previous matches.

“This is our last chance to look at certain combinations before the Rugby World Cup,” De Villiers said.

“We’ve had these changes in mind since we started our planning for the international season, depending on the injury situation.”

Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Steenkamp make their first starts of the year. In changes to the bench, loose forward Ashley Johnson and prop CJ van der Linde were called in after missing out completely against Australia. Jean Deysel and Gerhard Mostert were dropped from the 22.

South Africa’s defeat to the Wallabies in Durban was the under-fire world champion’s eighth loss in its last nine Tri-Nations matches.

South Africa: Patrick Lambie, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield (captain), Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp. Reserves: John Smit, Tendai Mtawarira, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Ashley Johnson, Francois Hougaard, Butch James. — Sapa-AP

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