Springbok changes expected
Springbok winger Gio Aplon, who has proved his worth during experimental Tests. (AFP)
Cape Town - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will make a number of changes to his side for the next two weeks' Tests against Italy in Witbank and East London despite the convincing 42-17 win over France at Newlands on Saturday.
De Villiers made it clear that he wants to cast the net as wide as possible to increase his options for the World Cup in New Zealand next year - and the last two Tests against Wales, which they won 34-31 in Cardiff the previous week, and France have been part of the process.
He also emphasised that the teams should not be seen as weakened B sides.
"I select every side with the hope that the new combinations will work and that the players will show that they are up to Test standard," he said. "If we lose, we lose as a (fully fledged) Springbok side."
De Villiers admitted the "experiment" in the third Test against the British and Irish Lions last year was a failure, but the form of players such as Gio Aplon and Francois Louw in the Super 14 has convinced him to repeat the "trial" in a Test.
The depth of South African rugby should enable De Villiers to have a pool of more than 40 players to select his 30 or so from for the World Cup.
Saturday's convincing win, except in the scrums, came despite the absence of players like Fourie du Preez, Juan Smith, Akona Ndungane, Bakkies Botha, Andries Bekker, Heinrich Brussow, Adriaan Strauss, Beast Mtwarira and JP Pietersen.
"We don't take any opposition lightly," said de Villiers. "For us, it is an opportunity to measure the players against good opposition to ensure that we select the right squad for the World Cup."
Springbok captain John Smit will almost certainly be rested for the weekend's first Test against Italy. Perhaps he should not have taken the field at all after injuring his hamstring in the warm-up before Saturday's Test.
"There was a little drama when we had to bandage it as tight as possible with only a minute or so to go," Smit said, adding that he stayed on a long as possible before coming off at half-time when he was replaced by Chiliboy Ralepelle.
France, meanwhile, admited they were totally outplayed and gave credit to the South Africans, but at the same time blamed most of their heartache on the first few minutes when the match was over as a contest.
The visitors were 7-0 behind when Pierre Spies scored after 90 seconds, fell further behind (10-0) after eight minutes, and trailed 20-0 after 24 minutes.
France's coach, Marc Lievremont, said the hiding they received would not change their approach and planning for the World Cup.
"The difference was those first few minutes," he said, adding that France were simply out of the game early on, describing it as "a catastrophe".
"We were as physical as we should have been," Lievremont said concerning the pre-match hype about the physical clash that was expected.
However, he bemoaned the fact that they could not play their natural game and had to rely on South Africa's sometimes aimless kicking for possession with which to attack.
"The quality of South Africa's forwards denied us playing our own game," he admitted.
"We came to the match with great intent," said captain Thierry Dusautoir, "but those first minutes cost us. We have no excuses."