Lions in SA
Smit: Botha was victimised
Johannesburg - The Springboks will not let the unsuccessful appeal of lock Bakkies Botha, against his suspension for the cleaning out at a ruck, deter them from playing their normal physical game in the third Test against the British and Irish Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
That assurance was given by Bok captain John Smit on Friday when he said he believed Botha was "victimised" after he was cited for the second-half charge on Adam Jones last weekend which left the Welsh prop needing corrective surgery to right a dislocated shoulder.
"I have to believe he was victimised, and I hope and pray that was the case," Smit said, adding that if it wasn't so, it would seriously affect the game of rugby and how it was played.
"One cannot let something like this pass," he said, and pointed out that the Lions management had said that they agreed with his sentiment.
"I hope sanity will prevail in the future."
On the game itself, Smit said the Springboks were as motivated as ever to win the match, despite the fact that there are ten changes to their starting line-up from the side which began the second Test a week ago.
"There is still a massive amount to play for," Smit said and pointed out that this was the last opportunity for the Springboks to play the Lions who will only return in 12 years time.
With the chance of making it a 3-0 series win, they would give their all. "It's another special occasion, we need no further motivation.
"You'll always have emotions running high (between two sides as good as these), but it was a fantastic series.
"It's been one of the more fantastic series we've had, and that's really why emotions run high. It's a series every player will remember for the rest of their lives."
The Boks will have one new cap in Zane Kirchner at fullback and a revamped backline with only Fourie du Preez at scrumhalf retaining his place from the second Test.
Probably the two best centres and the finest flyhalf in South Africa -Wynand Olivier, Jaque Fourie and Morne Steyn respectively - judged on their Super 14 form, will be lining up against the Lions in this revamped backline.
And with the Boks' forward pack better equipped at No 6 where Heinrich Brussow, who is held in high esteem by the tourists, takes over from suspended Schalk Burger, the only real weakening will be at lock.
Lock Johann Muller did play against the Lions three weeks ago, but has only come into the squad this week. He will not have the intensity of the rest of the players, while the other "newcomers" Chiliboy Ralepelle, in his first start, and Ryan Kankowski have been part of the system for more than four weeks now.
They will get their fair share of the ball and, with the exciting new inside backs Jongi Nokwe and Odwa Ndungane, can expect better ball than was sent out wide last weekend.
The Lions will still be very competent and competitive.
"It's been a fantastic series, we did very well against probably the best team in the world," said Lions head coach Ian McGeechan.
"Their finishing and defence have been top class."
He said because of the quality of the people in the squad, they'll be up for the challenge and will give it their best shot to do the Lions jersey proud.
Whether their revamped midfield, with outstanding winger Tommy Bowe now partnering Riki Flutey at centre, will be good enough to hold out Olivier and Fourie, remains to be seen.
However, it still is a very good side and accordingly, Bok captain Smit said he had warned Beast Mtawarira not to underestimate the comeback of recalled Lions tighthead Phil Vickery, who is a fighter and one of the very best.
The Lions did not shy away from the physical aspect last weekend, and they will not do so on Saturday. They know, just as they approached the second Test, that it is their only way towards possible success.
Martyn Williams, to combat Brussow on the ground, could also help their fortunes in securing enough ball - something that they did last week until they lost both their props and both their centres at virtually the same time.
With good ball, they will hope to exploit a very, very good backline which has not, however played together yet.
It will be a good Test, and for the betting man one where his money should be on the Boks.