South Africa, led by Lazarus-like back rower Bobby Skinstad, will field a strong-looking team for their World Cup warm-up match against Connacht tomorrow evening (The Sportsground, kick-off 7.30pm).
The Springboks side will be captained by the experienced Skinstad, who is set to play for the first time since sustaining a rib injury in the Tri-Nations clash with Australia six weeks ago.
Coach Jake White welcomes Danie Rossouw (hamstring) and Wikus van Heerden (knee) back from injury, while Butch James’ move to inside centre sees Ruan Pienaar, more noted as a scrum half, pencilled in at number 10.
Andre Pretorius, who is recovering from hamstring and back injuries, is included in the matchday 22, while wingers Ashwin Willemse and JP Pietersen retain their places, having both started in the ‘Boks’ 105-13 win over Namibia last Wednesday.
Pietersen will start at full-back in Galway, with Akona Ndungane coming onto the right wing and star man Bryan Habana set for some game-time off the bench. Waylon Murray is a late inclusion at outside centre with Jaque Fourie dropping down to the replacements.
IRISHRUGBY.IE PRE-MATCH QUOTES:
ON THE TRIP TO GALWAY –
“It’s always nice to come to Ireland. We always tour Dublin, tour Belfast or tour Cork, so to come to a place like Galway…for some of us it’s our first opportunity. And that’s part of being in a rugby touring side, not always going to the same sort of cities.
“So not only do we get an opportunity to play rugby in Connacht, we also get an opportunity to visit a place we mightn’t necessarily have seen if it wasn’t for rugby.
“In terms of rugby what we want to get out of it is first off, we hope there’s no injuries. That’s my first key area. As a coach two weeks away from the World Cup, that’s the last thing I need is some guy to be injured.
“I’m expecting a tough game and nice preparation for the World Cup for a group of players who are still going to play a huge part in the pool games leading up to the quarters.”
ON TALKING TO FORMER CONNACHT COACH STEPH NEL AND PLAYER WAYNE MUNN –
“They haven’t really given me individual things about Connacht. They have just spoken about is just how fantastic their time was in Connacht and how rugby crazy people are in Ireland. That wasn’t new – any guy involved in rugby knows how important rugby is to Irish people.
“I’m sure it’s no different in Connacht. I know there was talk a while back about closing Connacht and keeping the other three provinces going. I know how fanatical the people in Connacht were about keeping it going. They will get an opportunity against the Springbok team to stake a claim and make sure Connacht rugby stays healthy.”
ON THE MATCH ITSELF –
“Hopefully we can make it an enjoyable game of rugby. I’ve spoken to the CEO (of Connacht) and I’m sure I’ll meet Michael Bradley and have a chat with him. I want it to be a nice occasion for everybody. There’s a great opportunity for us to play in another place and I’m sure the Connacht people would love to see some good rugby from the Springboks. Hopefully people will come out and enjoy the fixture.”
ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS GAME –
“This is game two of a three-game warm-up series for us. The guys obviously did very, very well against Namibia, with what is close to our starting fifteen.
“(The team to play Connacht) we’re the guys…a couple of the players will be in the starting fifteen, but there needs to be players to back up the first team. This game is one where we get to run our moves against opposition that probably haven’t seen us that much before, and to try to structure a game. We’re going to have to do it during the World Cup and so we need to do it as a squad now.”
ON HIS LAST VISIT TO GALWAY WITH THE NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS –
“I told them (the South African players) a bit about Galway. I really enjoyed my trip the last time. I didn’t play very well the last time as an individual so I’ve a few things to set right. I certainly believe everyone is going to enjoy the trip. It’s a beautiful part of the world, we’ve had a look at the Sportsground the other day and we’ve had runs on the field next door to it.
“For me, when I started as a youngster, the Springboks used to go on long tours and you’d have midweek games and you’d play against a local provincial side and it sort of harks back to that.
“It’s a great feeling, you know I’ve got some of the youngsters playing with me – Bismarck (du Plessis) and Ruan Pienaar – who never really went on those kind of tours so they’ve always had nothing to do during the week and then backing up the Test team on the Saturday. Now they’re really involved and you can see that the excitement and enthusiasm in the guys is really peaking.”
ON WHAT HE EXPECTS FROM CONNACHT –
“I think Connacht will go out and treat this game as an opportunity to play against an international side. If, for some guys, that means kicking and punching and scratching and biting, then we’re going to have to deal with it.
“But I think a lot of guys will want to get out and show they are decent rugby players and put a decent game together. For me, that’s a far better prospect to have guys going out to play their absolute best and us not only trying to match them but beat them as well.”
SOUTH AFRICA (v Connacht): JP Pietersen; Akona Ndungane, Waylon Murray, Butch James, Ashwin Willemse; Ruan Pienaar, Ricky Januarie; Gurthro Steenkamp, Bismarck du Plessis, BJ Botha, Johann Muller, Albert van den Berg, Wikus van Heerden, Danie Rossouw, Bobby Skinstad (capt).
Replacements: Gary Botha, CJ van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Jacques Cronje, Andre Pretorius, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana.