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De Villiers likely to play Steyn at centre


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To date Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has been non-commital about what’s the best position for the multi-talented Frans Steyn who has been used by the Springboks in several backline positions during his 17-Test caps career.

The Springbok coach has been equally reserved in his comment about the highly gifted Ruan Pienaar, who was compared to the great Australian matchwinning flyhalf Stepen Larkham by the World Cup winning coach Jake White.

“I’ll say I believe in both players. They both add value to the team,” said De Villiers.

“Just how I see certain individuals and what positions are best for them, I’ll only say once I discuss the issues with the players.

“Only then will I air any kind of views in public.”

But it became patently clear on Thursday that Steyn will be slotting in an outside centre berth alongside Jean de Villiers in the upcoming Tests.

That has been the primary midfield combination in the past two days at training sessions at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

The picture is not that clear about where Pienaar will fit in but it does not look like De Villiers will use him as a scrumhalf as Bolla Conradie was firmly in place at training this week as Ricky Januarie’s understudy.

De Villiers has made it clear that he will promote the concept of backline versatility because it will complement his game plan for the Boks.

He expects the players to be proficient in whatever position they find may themselves when play is moved through the phases.

And judging by the way Dick Muir juggled Steyn and Pienaar in the Sharks’ Super 14 season, De Villiers will find that the Springbok backline coach will promote his philosophy.

“I’d like to see players have the ability to execute moves effectively from fourth or fifth or even hundredth phase, no matter where they are given the ball on the field.”

Another regular feature which was again evident on Thursday was Conrad Jantjes at fullback in what looked like the Bok ‘A’ team.

Percy Montgomery was running on the opposite side in the midfield, rather than in an obvious fullback position.

Tonderai Chavhanga’s hamstring strain has mended faster than anticipated he ran without apparent discomfort on Thursday. Bryan Habana looked the part in the other wing position.

Butch James seems to have the flyhalf berth sewn up as Peter Grant was used in what was shaping up as the side from which the likely match day reserves will be chosen.

Captain John Smit selects himself at hooker and Gurthro Steenkamp and Brian Mujati look like being De Villiers’ choice for two other front row berths.

Lock Bakkies Botha did not train on Thursday as he returned home to attend to family business. He and Andries Bekker have been paired in most sessions and it looks like the world-class Victor Matfield may be destined for the bench.

It may De Villiers’ way of giving Matfield a break ahead of the Tri-Nations season, when the Boks won’t have the luxury of rotating players.

On the matter of loosies, De Villiers has shared his thoughts on how he intends using Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski, without saying which player he rated higher. “I see Spies and Kankowski as specialist No8s,” said De Villers.

“That’s where I’ll use them.” Juan Smith looked the pick of the blindside flanks and Luke Watson is the only openside flank in the squad, after injuries to the incomparable Schalk Burger and Wikus van Heerden.

Joe van Niekerk who has been looking good at training all week could end up on the bench for the Wales Test as cover for the loosies.

At the end of Thursday’s training Montgomery and James practiced place-kicks under the watchful eye of Muir. Surprisingly, they were joined by Jean de Villiers who was on target with several attempts.

“I’ts nothing new. I’m used to kicking,” Jean de Villiers, retorted when a

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