Tests act as trials for Boks
Cape Town – South Africa’s first four rugby Tests this year will serve as extended trials for Springbok coach Peter de Villiers’ search for contenders for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.
De Villiers told Sport24 on Wednesday that he viewed the matches against Wales (June 5 in Cardiff), France (June 12 at Newlands) and the two Tests against Italy (June 19 and 26 in Witbank and East London) as “four chances to consider which players are good enough to represent South Africa at the World Cup”.
He is planning on picking a team made up largely of South Africa’s northern provinces for the Test in Witbank. After that he will pick mostly from the provinces in the south for the second Test in East London.
“We are not underestimating Italy at all. We have a lot of respect for them and consider them the best scrumming side in the world. They will test us thoroughly in the scrums and we’ll get a good idea of who the best players are in that area,” said De Villiers.
“I’m looking at a northern team in Witbank and a southern team in East London. It does not mean that we won’t pick some guys from the south in the northern side and vice versa. We want to win those Tests.”
No South African player that represents South Africa in the Super 14 final on May 29 will be considered for the first Test of the year against Wales in Cardiff.
As far as that Test is concerned, De Villiers will consider “four or five” players plying their trade overseas, but whom he believes may still be able to add value to the Boks.
“We don’t know how good the overseas players really are because the competitions there are different,” said the coach.
“The best South African team will play against France after that.”
Apart from the players on the injured list, De Villiers hopes to see everyone in action in those games who could possibly be contenders for the World Cup.
“Those four games are of critical interest on the road to the World Cup. By then we would have seen everyone in action.”
South Africa will enter the Tri-Nations (against Australia and New Zealand) with their “best representative team”.
He will first consider players in South Africa, but overseas-based players will be picked if they are better.
“We will consider players in South Africa for the Tri-Nations unless we have a situation where the locally-based player is not as good as the one overseas.”
De Villiers will also identify players that he believes should not play in the Currie Cup until the semi-finals.
“They will not rest, but will be conditioned with a view to next year. They will be available for the semi-finals and final,” he said.
De Villiers hopes to take the 30 players he has identified for the World Cup squad on South Africa’s Grand Slam tour at the end of the year.
“It will be the last opportunity to build a camp around rugby prior to the World Cup. If the players gel the way I think they can, we’ll have cohesion the next time we tour.”
De Villiers realises there is an inherent risk to all the changes he will be making from week to week in those four Tests, but believes it’s in the best interests of South African rugby.
“My ability as coach will be tested because I have a week to build a team. I know I may be shooting myself in the foot if my aim is to set records, but it’s the right thing for South African rugby.”