Italy: Mallett to shave head
Johannesburg - One of the expected changes in East London when South Africa and Italy clash in the second Test match will be the bald pate of Italy coach Nick Mallett, and there might also be a new Springbok captain.
After the 29-13 win by the Springboks against Italy in Witbank on Saturday, the former Springbok No 8 and South African national coach said he would stick to his promise to shave off his hair if Italy lost by less than 20 points.
Saturday’s 16 points difference beat the 19 (score 40-21) in 1995 and last year’s 22 (score 32-10).
There will also be a number of changes in the Springbok side as Bok coach Peter de Villiers has made it clear: he will stick to his plans in the build-up to the Tri-Nations and next years’ World Cup despite the poor showing of his team in Witbank on Saturday.
This will almost certainly mean that Saturday’s Bok captain Victor Matfield will be rested and this could mean a new Springbok captain being blooded.
With regular Springbok captain John Smit in a race against time to recover from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Witbank Test, South Africa will get its 54th Test captain if Smit’s hamstring keeps playing up - and it will probably be one of Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers or Chiliboy Ralepelle, who is being groomed for the job.
Bulls captain Matfield will welcome a rest. He missed only one match during the tough Super 14 campaign and was due to be rested for the first Test this season against Wales. An injury to Andries Bekker, however, put paid to that.
A rest next weekend will effectively mean three weeks off the pitch for Matfield -- and Morne Steyn is likely to have a similar break period with Butch James or Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf on Saturday.
Gurthro Steenkamp has also not had much rest since February and together with Pierre Spies and Bryan Habana could also be rested.
Hopefully all these changes will see Pienaar get an extended run at scrumhalf where he prefers playing and where he was very good when the Sharks used him there.
De Villiers was particularly disappointed about what he calls Saturday’s "stupid mistakes" at national level.
"We let the supporters down because we didn't do what we are supposed to do. "We made a lot of individual mistakes and that prevented us building momentum," said De Villiers.
Matfield, like his coach, was also not happy with the Boks’ performance on Saturday.
"We didn't play very well," said Matfield. "We made too many basic errors.
"Our scrums were good, our lineouts were good but our individual skill levels let us down.
"There was bad delivery from the lineout, the ball was lost at the back of the scrum and there were too many handling errors."