Spies out of Bok tour
Johannesburg - Springbok No 8 Pierre Spies has been ruled out of the Test matches against France, Italy and Ireland after injuring a finger during a training session in Johannesburg on Monday afternoon.
Spies underwent an operation on Monday evening, and has been replaced on the tour, which encompasses matches against English club sides Saracens and Leicester Tigers in addition to the three Test matches, by Sharks flank Jean Deysel.
Deysel was not in the same form in 2009 as he was in his first full season of top flight provincial rugby, but nonetheless he is a player with a lot of potential and his selection into the squad might in a sense be a good thing as it will enable the Boks to further grow the depth available at loose-forward.
With Spies ruled out, Sharks No 8 Ryan Kankowski will get a chance to show what he can do at this level. He made an impressive debut against Wales in Jake White’s last match in charge just under two years ago, but since then he has been kept on the sidelines due to Spies’ impressive form.
Bok coach Peter de Villiers caused some consternation among rugby journalists on Monday when he announced a team to play Leicester Tigers in the opening match at Welford Road on Friday night that included Heinrich Brussow. This was taken as an indication that SA’s Young Player of the Year would not be part of the team to play against France.
However, it is possible that De Villiers is just doing what he has said he is doing – ensuring that the side that plays against the English champions is not completely short of experience. The Bok coach has also ascribed the selection to the need to look at the balance of the loose trio for the Leicester game.
Outside of the four established test loose-forwards in the squad, there is a shortage of experience among the rest of the back-row players, and De Villiers would probably be right to assume that giving both Ashley Johnson and Davon Raubenheimer a start in their first appearances in the green and gold would be risky.
There would be no point in taking Johnson on tour, however, if he was not going to play in this game, which could explain why Kankowski was not included.
Certainly any thought of the Boks going into the French game without Brussow on the flank would appear laughable after the outstanding season he has enjoyed at all levels of the game. The combination of Brussow, Schalk Burger and Spies worked well in the final Tri-Nations game against the All Blacks, and while Spies is now ruled out, there would appear no good reason to change the flank configuration which had Brussow packing down at No6 and Burger at No 7.
With Burger having been out of rugby for a while with injury, and given how eager he looked to play when he came on as a replacement for Western Province in the recent Currie Cup semi-final, it would be logical to ask though why he is not playing against Leicester. He surely needs more game time than Brussow does.
The other selection which appears to be an indicator of something is that of Wynand Olivier as the inside centre for the Leicester game. Olivier would be the first choice replacement No12 for Jean de Villiers in the eyes of most critics, but this selection suggests De Villiers will press ahead with his risky plan to play the out of form Adrian Jacobs at inside centre.
Meyer Bosman, the other option as an inside centre, is on the bench for the Leicester match.
The 22 players who will do duty at Welford Road leave for England on Tuesday evening, with the rest of the players flying to Europe next Tuesday, just three days before the test against France in Toulouse.
Springbok team for Leicester game:
Earl Rose, Odwa Ndungane, Juan de Jongh, Wynand Olivier, Jongi Nokwe, Ruan Pienaar, Heini Adams, Ashley Johnson, Dewald Potgieter, Heinrich Brussow, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Jannie du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Heinke van der Merwe, Alistair Hargreaves, Davon Raubenheimer, Francois Hougaard, Meyer Bosman, Riaan Viljoen