Schalk Burger has been selected in the Springboks’ touring squad, setting up an almighty tussle for the openside flank berth with the white hot Heinrich Brüssow.
Other additions to the squad that did duty in the Tri-Nations are flanker Ryan Kankowski, prop Gurthrö Steenkamp and winger Odwa Ndungane.
Burger was suspended for eight weeks after being found guilty of eye-gouging British & Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in the second Test of the series at Loftus. His ban runs until 22 August, meaning he would be available for selection for the Test against Australia in Perth on 29 August.
Before the ban Burger was a mainstay of the loose trio, but Brüssow has excelled in his absence, making telling contributions to the Springboks’ recent success. He is yet to be outclassed, despite having played against two of the world’s elite opensiders in New Zeland’s Richie McCaw and Australia’s George Smith.
Australia coach Robbie Deans told keo.co.za on Thursday that Brüssow added a dimension to the Springboks that they hadn’t had before, referring to his potency at the breakdown, and the trio certainly has a more balance looked about it with the Free Stater in the mix.
Furthermore Burger’s lack of game time (he’s played 70 minutes in the last four months) must be a major concern.
However, Springboks coach Peter de Viilliers refused to reveal his hand with regards to whether Brüssow had done enough to retain his starting spot, or whether Burger would slot straight back in.
‘In this side the ‘I’ has disappeared long ago. It’s a sad day when Heinrich Brüssow is compared with Schalk Burger,’ De Villiers told keo.co.za.
‘They’re team-mates and they will stand together and build each other up. It’s great to have two brilliant players like them in the same squad. A lot of coaches would give anything to be in my position.’
De Villiers was equally non-committal when asked whether the outstanding Morne Steyn had cemented his place ahead of Ruan Pienaar.
‘We’re blessed to have that type of talent,’ he said. ‘The important thing is that we manage them correctly to ensure that they don’t lose interest.’
The Springbok tour squad:
Forwards: John Smit (The Sharks, captain), Victor Matfield (Blue Bulls, vice-captain), Andries Bekker (Western Province), Bakkies Botha (Blue Bulls), Heinrich Brüssow (Free State Cheetahs), Schalk Burger (Western Province), Bismarck du Plessis ( The Sharks), Jannie du Plessis (The Sharks), Ryan Kankowski (The Sharks), Tendai Mtawarira (The Sharks), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Blue Bulls), Danie Rossouw (Blue Bulls), Juan Smith (Free State Cheetahs), Pierre Spies (Blue Bulls), Gurthrö Steenkamp (Blue Bulls).
Backs: Jean de Villiers (Western Province), Fourie du Preez (Blue Bulls), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Bryan Habana (Blue Bulls), Adi Jacobs (The Sharks), Ricky Januarie (Western Province), Odwa Ndungane (The Sharks), Wynand Olivier (Blue Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (The Sharks), JP Pietersen (The Sharks), Frans Steyn (The Sharks), Morné Steyn (Blue Bulls).