Rugby World Cup 2011

Smit back to lead Boks

2011-10-05 20:17
John Smit (File)

Wellington - John Smit will captain the Springboks against Australia in a World Cup quarter-final here on Sunday, but lock Bakkies Botha misses out after injuring himself in training.

Smit is one of three changes to the team that beat Samoa in the final pool match, the captain replacing Bismarck du Plessis, while Gurthro Steenkamp comes in at loosehead prop for Tendai Mtawarira, who drops out of the squad.

The backline shows only one change, Jean de Villiers named as centre in place of the injured Frans Steyn.

The team is the most experienced Springbok team ever, featuring 836 caps, surpassing the previous record of 815 posted against Wales in the team's opening match.

The starting XV includes eight players who started the 2007 World Cup final, with a further three on the bench.

Only fullback Pat Lambie, flyhalf Morné Steyn and flanker Heinrich Brussow of the starting team were not involved in 2007, while Pierre Spies was originally selected but had to withdraw through illness.

But Botha missed out on the chance to get his World Cup campaign back on the road, landing nastily in training on Wednesday.

"It was the worst part of my day yesterday," coach Peter de Villiers said. "At the first lineout he injured himself again. He landed badly, and his achilles flamed up again.

"It was a sad day for myself and for Bakkies. It might mean that his tournament is over."

De Villiers changed his usual split of five forwards and two backs on the bench to include three backs as extra cover for winger JP Pietersen, who's also been battling injury.

"JP's not 100 percent as yet, but we give him all the time we can to prove his fitness and we just hope he'll get through," De Villiers said.

"JP knows the system so well and the guys inside him know him so well, it would be good if he came through."

Captain Smit added: "It's certainly quite an experienced team but that only really counts once the business is done on Sunday.

"We have to make sure we take our experiences throughout the World Cup and pressure games and hopefully use it."

Despite being hit by some injuries, including to long-distance penalty kicker Frans Steyn, De Villiers expressed his satisfaction with his selection.

"Other teams have been hit harder than we've been. We've had some severe blows with some players we'd love to have available going into this phase but you make use of what life offers you," he said.

"And at this moment I'm very happy with what I've got.

"The players are all capable of playing good rugby. We've got a team of world-class players, we've got world-class leaders, we've got everything we want.

"I know what I want to achieve out of this game with my team and the team know what we want to achieve because we had long discussions around it.

"They understand what the job is and they will go out there and try to achieve what we can achieve."

De Villiers said that Australia were "pretty much the favourites" after having beaten the Springboks in their last four encounters.

"They are at the moment Tri-Nations champions," he said. "We know they are a very dangerous rugby team.

"They were, for nine or 10 months, number two on the world rankings because of the way they play the game.

"They are confrontational in their forwards and get it right for most of the game. They never, never give up.

"And then their exciting backs, if you give them a sniff or space or the ball, they will run and take you to pieces."

He added: "It's hard to sit down and analyse a team like Australia and try to find a weak spot, it's really tough. Because we couldn't find one, we had to concentrate on what we want to do."


South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Willem Alberts, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon




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