Rugby Championship News

Springboks drop World cup winners for All Blacks test

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Joe van Niekerk was the surprise selection in the South African team for the Tri-nations Test against the All Blacks here Saturday, while World Cup heroes Percy Montgomery and Francois Steyn missed the cut.

Van Niekerk has been included at the expense of Super 14 standouts Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski in a loose forward trio which also includes Schalk Burger in his return to Test rugby after recovering from knee surgery.

But fullback Montgomery and utility Steyn, who kicked the Springboks to a 15-6 victory over England in the World Cup final with five penalties between them, have been relegated to the reserves bench.

The Springboks have not beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 1998 and new coach Peter de Villiers said he was putting his best team on the paddock to snap the run of defeats.

It includes six of the run-on forward pack from the side which beat England.

“If you look at the line-up of this side, there is a great deal of decision making running down its spine,” he said.

“The guys know what is expected of them. They trust each other. I think there’s a great team spirit.”

Captain John Smit said there were a number of similarities between this Tri-Nations side and the team which won the World Cup.

“The majority of the squad that played a role in Paris in 2007 are still involved in this squad as well, so the theme remains the same.

“The confidence we gained out of the World Cup is certainly quite relevant to how we’re training and how we’re playing.

“The exciting part is that it is a new era and we’ve got a new coach in Peter de Villiers and he’s come with some fresh ideas and he’s put some changes towards us as well.”

Conrad Jantjies comes in at fullback ahead of Montgomery while Adrian Jacobs is paired in the centres with Stormers teammate Jean de Villiers.

The return to fitness of the powerful Burger will put added pressure on the All Blacks loose forwards who will be without injured captain Richie McCaw.

While van Niekerk’s selection was a surprise, de Villiers said the decision was made on form.

“Joe came back into the Springbok camp after having a brilliant Super 14 and he showed to all of us that he means business,” he said.

“When he got his one chance against Italy he took it with both hands. He earned his place.”

South Africa (15-1)
 
Conrad Jantjes, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Ricky Januarie, Joe van Niekerk, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, CJ van der Linde, John Smit (captain), Gurthro Steenkamp

Reserves: Bismarck du Plessis, Brian Mujati, Andries Bekker, Luke Watson, Bolla Conradie, Francois Steyn, Percy Montgomery

Sapa-AFP Rugbyweek.com

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