Rugby World Cup 2011
Div goes back to future
Peter de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South African newspapers on Wednesday found it ironic that Springbok coach Peter de Villiers had chosen 18 of the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning squad to defend the title.
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"De Villiers, who set out to change the face of Bok rugby, has come full circle by leaning on those who have done it before," noted Craig Ray in The Times.
"Bok coach De Villiers looked as much to the past as the future when he announced a 30-man squad for the Rugby World Cup," wrote Kevin McCallum in The Star.
The announcement of the squad was splashed across the front and back pages of most Johannesburg dailies as South Africa get set for the World Cup in New Zealand in September and October.
De Villiers, a controversial successor to World Cup-winning coach Jake White in 2008 as he had no top-level experience, promised a revolution when he took over.
But after many experiments, he opted for a squad with an average age of 28 that some media commentators call "tried and trusted" and others "geriatric".
All newspapers agreed that Sharks left-wing Lwazi Mvovo was the biggest loser after they predicted he would make the cut as understudy to 2007 Rugby Player of the World Bryan Habana.
Jacques van der Westhuyzen of The Star described Mvovo as "a dynamic wing with great pace who has used his chances well at Test level since debuting against Scotland at the end of last year.
"He is a powerful player with good speed and never shirks the physical challenges. Lwazi would not have let the Boks down."
Business Day said De Villiers admitted that the exclusion of Mvovo was the toughest decision while finalising his squad.
Explaining his preference for Odwa Ndungane, the coach said the greater experience of the 30-year-old had counted heavily in his favour.
The squad, which leaves Johannesburg for New Zealand on September 1, boasts a combined 1 224 caps with lock Victor Matfield (107) and hooker and captain John Smit (106) making the most Test appearances.
Mvovo, locks Gerhard Mostert and Flip van der Merwe and loose forward Ashley Johnson were unlucky not to make the squad, according to The Star.
They added that Ndungane, flyhalf/scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, lock Johann Muller and flank Francois Louw were lucky to be heading for Auckland.
South Africa start the title defence on September 11 against Wales in Wellington and also face unpredictable islanders Fiji and Samoa and rank outsiders Namibia in Pool D.
The top two finishers advance to the quarter-finals of a competition won twice by Australia and South Africa and once by New Zealand and England since its 1987 inception.