JP Pietersen will make his test debut if Bryan Habana fails a fitness test.
Jake White will also restore Jaque Fourie to outside centre, which is the player’s best position, and reunite the potent midfield pairing of Fourie and Jean de Villiers. The two, as a partnership, are among the best in the game.
Should Habana fail the fitness test then Breyton Paulse and Akona Ndungane will start as the wingers. There is unlikely to be any other changes to the side that beat the All Blacks 21-20.
Pietersen’s probable selection comes a week after Dick Muir expressed reservations about picking Pietersen now for the national team. Muir was flattering of Pietersen’s ability and his potential but told us the player was not yet the finished product. In Muir’s opinion the player needed more domestic and Super rugby game time.
Pietersen, though, is talented enough to survive his baptism and make an impact. His selection would be a positive, regardless of the consequence. White would have exposed Pietersen to test rugby in an international that is meaningless in the context of the Tri nations. It serves as a warm-up to the World Cup. There is no harm in experimentation and the call-up, although belated, should be welcomed.
Brent Russell, at best, seems set for a position on the bench, although White may favour Wynand Olivier and Butch James as his bench players with Ruan Pienaar to provide utility back-up.
Probable Bok team (to play Australia): JP Pietersen, Breyton Paulse, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Akona Ndungane, Andre Pretorius, Fourie du Preez, AJ Venter, Pedrie Wannenburg, Pierre Spies, Victor Matfield, Johan Muller, BJ Botha, John Smit and Os du Randt.