Pienaar to give Boks the edge
Sydney - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is excited about the positive energy in his camp ahead of Saturday's Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies.
"I have not seen so much positive energy in our preparations for a long time. It was only the second day after our arrival, but everything worked in training today," De Villiers said on Tuesday as he announced his team.
"I know that energy can quickly wane if things don't go your way in a game, but I hope the guys can stick it out. This is a team with lots of potential."
There are 322 Tests shared between the members of the starting line-up (an average of 21 per player), but John Smit's 102 Tests skews the statistic.
De Villiers and his coaching staff are satisfied with what is happening on the training field, but between the four lines it will be up to the squad of 22 to determine the coach's mood.
"We will definitely play some rugby. The guys know what we want to achieve and will play according to a plan, but they know the freedom will be there if they want to make decisions themselves."
De Villiers emphasised the role of Ruan Pienaar in the Test match.
The Springbok scrumhalf is playing in his 48th Test and is by far the most experienced backline player, with Morné Steyn (25 caps) and Wynand Olivier (32) the only other two players who have been Test Springboks for more than one season.
"Ruan Pienaar is a natural rugby player and reads the situation better than any other player. I have a lot of confidence that his decision-making ability will pull it through for us," said De Villiers.
He also decided to pick Danie Rossouw on the flank and let Ashley Johnson make his Test debut at No 8. Last week they prepared with Rossouw at No 8 and Johnson on the flank.
"There is a reason for that," said De Villiers.
"I know Ashley played superbly for the Cheetahs at No 7, but with uncertainty about Juan Smith's fitness for the World Cup, I'm looking to Danie to fill in there if necessary.
"There has been a revival in Danie's career this year. His performance will be very important for us," De Villiers said ahead of his 40th Test as coach.
"I think Ashley could get us on the front foot from No 8."
De Villiers said that the momentum of the forward pack would determine the success of his backline selections.
The back three are a superb attacking unit.
"Our ability to bring that explosiveness of the outside backs into the game will depend on the kind of possession we get, our field position and how much momentum we have."
De Villiers nevertheless expects Bjorn Basson and Lwazi Mvovo to do their bit on defence.
"They must be prepared to work for the team and their willingness to fall back to support Gio (Aplon) will be crucial. Gio will have the confidence to do his thing if the support play is there. He won't have options if he does not get support."
Springboks: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Danie Rossouw, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 John Smit, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Patrick Lambie
Wallabies: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu
Substitutes: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Nathan Sharpe, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Anthony Faingaa