Peter de Villiers believes Morgan Newman has a bright future and has handed him a starting opportunity against a Namibian XV.
Newman was third-choice behind Jean de Villiers and make-shift 12 Peter Grant at the Stormers, and also struggled to get game-time ahead of Gcobani Bobo and Dylan des Fountain at 13. But the Springbok coach has given him a chance in South Africa’s only warm-up fixture ahead of the Lions’ series.
‘He’s shown some great form throughout his career,’ said De Villiers. ‘Like Jano Vermaak, who has come through the U19 and U21 structures he’s good enough to play for this country.
‘He’s learned a lot in the past week and with a bit of guidance I believe he could be a great player.’
Newman will partner Meyer Bosman in the midfield while Earl Rose, Jongi Nokwe and Odwa Ndungane form the back three. The Stormers’ halfback pairing of Ricky Januarie and Peter Grant will start.
In the forwards, Jean Deysel and Heinrich Brussow are preferred ahead of Juan Smith and Schalk Burger. De Villiers believes this is a strong side and that injuries to Burger, Jean de Villiers and Adi Jacobs have not influenced selection.
‘If you’re good enough for the Super 14, you’re good enough to play for your country. We come into this game with specific goals in mind, but I would never play with players’ lives. Everyone selected is fully fit.
‘I’ve got a great medical team and they would not allow me to put these men in danger. Every Super 14 player has niggles and obviously we have to manage that.’
De Villiers said he was impressed with the progress made since the team came together in Pretoria on Monday. Friday’s game will reveal whether this side can perform as a unit.
‘We have begun to gel and I think the influence of the senior team has contributed to that. We’ve empowered these players to help the young guys and are very pleased with the results,’ he said.
‘There is some fine-tuning we have to do over the next few days, but I think the past week has gone very smoothly.’
The Bok side for the Lions series will be announced on 1 June and should feature a number of Bulls players involved in Saturday’s Super 14 final. De Villiers said that players who are not considered part of the inner circle of 24 players will still be allowed to compete against the Lions for their unions.
SA XV- 15 Earl Rose, 14 Jongi Nokwe, 13 Morgan Newman, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Johann Muller, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Juan Smith, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Jean de Villiers, 23 Adi Jacobs, 24 JP Pietersen.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Tshwane.