JP gets the nod

JP Pietersen will make his Springbok debut in the Vodacom Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Pietersen was one of three changes – all in the backline – for the final Tri-Nations game. He will start at fullback, a move coach Jake White hinted at on the weekend. He also ran there at practice this week.

He replaces Jaque Fourie who switches to outside centre to resume his partnership with Jean de Villiers in the midfield. As predicted, Wynand Olivier will start in the No 11 jersey, replacing the injured Bryan Habana after he played outside centre last weekend.

“Bryan’s injury is a huge blow. His performance last week was probably his best this season. But again that gives an opportunity to JP. He has been a part of the squad since we first announced the squad for Bloemfontein and there is now a chance for us to see how he does.”

One worry might be the defence out wide with Olivier unaccustomed to wing play. Also the kicking aspect might backfire on the coach.

“I think Wynand understands how we play, he has been part of our team and has played 13. There is no reason why he will not slot in in certain plays in that position anyway. He is comfortable to play anywhere,” White said.

“We know what Breyton can do, we know what Akona and Bryan Habana can do. We have an opportunity to try something else now. The more players we can get buying into the way we defend the better it will be for us going forward.”

There was, however, no place for fellow Sharks player Brent Russell, who also flew up from Durban on Monday to join the squad. The three backline players on the bench are Ruan Pienaar, Butch James and Breyton Paulse.

Andre Pretorius is again at No 10 and much will be expected of the talented flyhalf on his home ground. He will partner Fourie du Preez, but Ruan Pienaar is likely to get a bit more game time this time round.

Springbok team to play the Wallabies: 15 JP Pietersen, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Wynand Olivier, 10 Andre Pretorius; 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Pierre Spies, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Johann Muller, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Os du Randt.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Lawrence Sephaka, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Jaques Cronjé, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Butch James, 22 Breyton Paulse.

By Andrew Hollely, at the Bok team hotel