Bok, Oz plans are poles apart
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Durban - Retention versus renewal ... the wisdom of one of these over the other will be put to an intriguing little test on Saturday when the Springboks meet the Wallabies in the Castle Tri-Nations here.
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The retention factor, of course, lies in the hands of the Boks, who are expected to roll out a team on Thursday laden with World Cup 2007-winning stalwarts, thus also confirming their intentions to go heavily this route at RWC 2011 in a few weeks’ time.
And the renewal, in many respects, will be reflected in the vastly changed Australian line-up from the one which turned out in their own last outing at the World Cup four years ago.
The contrast in selection philosophy since then could hardly be more apparent ... even if the Boks were always likelier to have strong, ongoing faith in many of the heroes of 2007 because they won the tournament while the Wallabies bombed out at the quarter-final stage.
As many as 10 Springbok players who began the final against England could be named by coach Peter de Villiers in Umhlanga on Thursday for the match at Mr Price Kings Park.
And another three - Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and CJ van der Linde - are firmly in plans for the latest World Cup, with the two loose forwards among this trio in advanced stages of recovery from injury problems.
In addition Jean de Villiers, expected to be named at inside centre for Saturday, was in the initial Bok World Cup squad in France but quit the tournament injured at an early stage.
The only confirmed odd ones out these days are retired icons Os du Randt and Percy Montgomery.
But for the Wallabies, there’s been a real cleanout of 2007 troops, with some having hung up their boots and others either on the periphery of the current Wallaby first-choice line-up or having fallen more significantly out of favour during the Robbie Deans tenure as coach.
When they shortly confirm their own team for Saturday, there are likely to be a maximum of three players who “survived” the World Cup 2007 quarter-final exit to England (12-10) in Marseille.
Captain and flank Rocky Elsom, hooker Stephen Moore and utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper could start on Saturday.
For interest’s sake, this was the Australian team edged out of RWC 2007 by eventual finalists England: 15 Chris Latham 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Stirling Mortlock, 12 Matt Giteau 11 Lote Tuqiri 10 Berrick Barnes 9 George Gregan 8 Wycliff Palu 7 George Smith 6 Rocky Elsom 5 Dan Vickerman 4 Nathan Sharpe 3 Guy Shepherdson 2 Stephen Moore 1 Matt Dunning.
On Saturday, we may start to get an idea of whether the Boks’ dogged faith in the tried and trusted is going to be a shrewder course than the Wallaby “regeneration” focus in this particular World Cup year...