The Boks squad for the Tri-Nations will be announced later today and we might get a few surprises.
Ashfak Mohamed – Cape Times
Sharks prop Jannie du Plessis could be the surprise selection when the Springbok squad for the Tri-Nations is named on Tuesday.
Du Plessis was left out of the Test squad for the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions last month, and played his last Test against England in November 2008.
His omission was a bit of a gamble by the Springbok management, as it meant that captain John Smit, who had only recently moved to tighthead from hooker, did not have a specialist back-up.
Fellow Sharks prop Deon Carstens was chosen instead, and he was on the bench for all three Lions Tests.
But he is primarily a loosehead, and struggled when he came on to the field.
Smit fared quite well, but it is crucial that there is a specialist back-up tighthead on the bench if he had to get injured.
It is believed the Bok selectors will task Du Plessis for this role.
The Boks had two props on the bench in the first and third Test, so Gurthro Steenkamp can provide loosehead back-up to Beast Mtawarira and Du Plessis can cover Smit.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, though, will not be able to call on Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner after he sustained a fractured cheekbone in Saturday’s 19-13 win over the Lions at Loftus.
Kirchner was on Monday ruled out of rugby for at least four weeks.
It is a pity that he now can’t continue developing at international level after making his Springbok debut in the final Test against the British and Irish Lions in Johannesburg.
Kirchner’s development and exposure to Test rugby is even more important when one considers the fact that Francois Steyn, who started the first two Lions Tests in the No 15 jersey, will be joining French club Racing Metro later in 2009.
It is still not confirmed if he will leave immediately after the Tri-Nations or after the end of the Currie Cup.
With De Villiers’s policy of being reluctant to pick players who are based overseas, Steyn could miss out on the Bok squad for the end-of-year European tour, which would open up the door for Kirchner.
Regular Bok fullback Conrad Jantjes will only be ready to play again in 2010’s Super 14 after sustaining a horror broken leg while playing for the Stormers in 2009.
Good news for De Villiers is that lock Andries Bekker should be fit for the Tri-Nations. Bekker told the Cape Times on Monday that he was recovering well from a knee injury he suffered during the second Test against the Lions.
He had a scope performed on his knee on June 29, and has been in rehabilitation since after tearing cartilage.
“Slowly but surely, it is coming along nicely,” Bekker said last night.
“I will start running tomorrow, and I will be ready to play next week, if I am selected for Western Province.”
Of course, Bekker was being modest, as he should be in the Bok squad. But the 2.08m giant did not want to get ahead of himself.
“I love to play for the Springboks, and it would be great if I am selected in the Tri-Nations squad,” he said.
“I haven’t had much game time, and the injuries have also set me back a bit. But I am looking forward to getting on to the field and playing again.”
Bekker’s recovery is vital considering that the man that replaced him in the Bok side for the final Lions Test, Johann Muller, broke his arm in Saturday’s defeat to WP at Newlands and is out for six weeks.
Most of the players who faced the Lions should again be in the squad that will be announced today. It is also believed that utility forward Danie Rossouw has recovered from concussion after a head-on clash with Brian O’Driscoll, so he is likely to provide cover for lock and the loose trio during the Tri-Nations due to Schalk Burger’s suspension.
Possible Springbok squad
Francois Steyn, Earl Rose, JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Jongi Nokwe, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Ricky Januarie, Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow, Danie Rossouw, Victor Matfield, Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, John Smit (capt), Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Beast Mtawarira, Gurthro Steenkamp.