De Villiers back to lead Boks

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iol spt aug1 Jean De Villiers AP Jean de Villiers return from injury means that the Springboks will go into the Rugby Championship with a new midfield pairing. Photo by: Christophe Ena/AP

The return to fitness of Jean de Villiers and the unavailability of JP Pietersen means the Springboks will go into the 2014 Rugby Championship with a new midfield pairing.

De Villiers’ return from a knee injury, which saw him miss the June Tests against Wales and Scotland, means he will slot back in at inside centre and resume the captaincy duties. His partner in the midfield for the opening Test next weekend against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld is almost certain to be WP teammate Damian de Allende, who also missed the June Tests, because of injury.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer made no bones about the fact he wanted to play De Allende against Wales and Scotland, but a knee injury put paid to those plans.

Meyer eventually settled on Jan Serfontein and Pietersen in the midfield, with both players coming out of the Tests with their reputations enhanced. Serfontein was especially good in the No12 jersey, but De Villiers’ availability, linked with Pietersen’s unavailability – because he has joined his Japanese club – means Meyer will get to see his first choice pairing in action next weekend.

Schalk Burger will also not feature in the first part of the Rugby Championship following his move to Japan, while Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie are injured and will play no part in the Boks’ campaign.

The squad is likely to feature a number of youngsters who impressed in June – among them wing Cornal Hendricks, Handré Pollard and, Lood de Jager.

Sharks fullback-cum-flyhalf Pat Lambie could also be back in the mix following his return from injury, while Eben Etzebeth is also set to take up his place in the squad.

The two positions which have caused Meyer a few headaches over the last two years, scrumhalf and hooker, will again be a worry for him. With Du Preez out, Meyer will rely on Ruan Pienaar and Francois Hougaard to fulfil the No9 duties.

At hooker, Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss are world class, but no-one else locally has the experience more the class to be the automatic third choice No2.

If Scarra Ntubeni is fit following a foot injury, he will fill the role, otherwise Meyer will have to consider Schalk Brits, who plays in England or Kyle Cooper of the Sharks.

The squad will gather in Johannesburg for a training camp from Monday in preparation for the first Test, against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld on August 16 (kick off at 5pm).

Possible squad

Backs (14): Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Lwazi Mvovo, Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers, Jan Serfontein, S’bura Sithole, Morné Steyn, Pat Lambie, Handré Pollard, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Hougaard

Forwards (16): Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi, Marcell Coetzee, Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Lood de Jager, Jannie du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Beast Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Scarra Ntubeni

Fixtures

August 16: Australia v New Zealand, 12.05pm; South Africa v Argentina, 5pm

August 23: New Zealand v Australia, 9.35am; Argentina v South Africa, 9.40pm

September 6: New Zealand v Argentina, 9.35am; Australia v South Africa, 12.05pm

September 13: New Zealand v South Africa, 9.35am; Australia v Argentina, 12.05pm

September 27: South Africa v Australia, 5pm; Argentina v New Zealand, 9.10pm

October 4: South Africa v New Zealand, 5pm; Argentina v Australia, 9.10pm - The Star



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