Rugby World Cup 2011
Juan's loss not all bad - Div
Peter de Villiers (File)
Cape Town - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers says flanker Juan Smith's withdrawal from South Africa's World Cup squad will produce positives and negatives for his team.
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Smith withdrew from the squad on the eve of the Boks' final Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand in Port Elizabeth on Saturday with a persistent Achilles tendon injury that had been troubling him since February.
And while De Villiers admitted Smith's absence was a blow, he was pleased a decision had been made and his players could get on with the job at hand.
"It's sad that Juan has had to withdraw from the squad," De Villiers said on Thursday.
"His withdrawal doesn't make it tougher because now we know that he's out and the waiting is over.
"Still it remains a big blow because, when one thinks about it, he brought something special to the team.
"His leadership role is also a loss, and now it remains to be seen who will step up."
De Villiers said the heavy workload of the national squad had contributed to the multiple injuries which were picked up in the lengthened Super Rugby season.
One way of addressing that problem, he said, would be for the SA Rugby Union to contract the national players.
"It's much easier for the players in New Zealand," said De Villiers.
"There they contract the players and that puts them in a position where they can reach out to the national team all the time.
"Here in this country, the provinces control the players."
The residents of Port Elizabeth had warmed to the Springboks this week and De Villiers said he was "ashamed" that fans in the Eastern Cape did not see the national team more frequently.
"It makes one feel guilty when you experience the hospitality here in PE," said De Villiers.
"It is clear that the people want to associate with the Springboks.
"I just hope that we will do more to give the Springboks exposure here."
The Bok coach warned that the All Blacks were fielding a strong team for this weekend's clash, South Africa's last official match before the World Cup, despite making 11 changes to their side.
"It may sound like a lot of changes, but those players were the ones they used last year on their tour in Britain, so I'm sure the New Zealanders know what they are doing," he said.
"They have named (Colin) Slade at flyhalf, and we don't expect the All Blacks' game to change too much because he's in the same mould as (Dan) Carter."
Bryan Habana said he and fellow Springbok wing JP Petersen had a special task to perform on Saturday, since they had not played with newcomer Patrick Lambie who was set to start at fullback.
"Lambie is a special talent and he'll be around in South African rugby for a long time," said Habana.
"But JP and I have never played in the back three with Lambie so we have to make sure that we work as a unit.
"We've got to help him and make him as comfortable as possible."
15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Substitutes: 16 John Smit, Tendai Mtawarira, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Ashley Johnson, Francois Hougaard, Butch James
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Isaia Toeava, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Adam Thomson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Cory Jane