Peter de Villiers is defiant in the face of criticism of resting first-choice players as he says the Springboks are developing depth to see them through post 2011.
On Tuesday De Villiers will name his XV to face Italy in Witbank and is expected to make a number of changes from the team that defeated France with John Smit (injured), Schalk Burger (in doubt), Danie Rossouw, Wynand Olivier, Jaque Fourie, BJ Botha, and Pierre Spies all set to sit out.
However, Victor Matfield and Morne Steyn are another couple who also need to be managed and who deserved a break this week against a side ranked outside the top 10 in the world and who have never beaten the Boks. De Villiers’s goal should be to develop a squad of 30 for next year’s World Cup where the first XV and second XV are of similar strength.
Butch James and BJ Botha are based overseas and by moulding those players with rookies such as Flip van der Merwe and Juan de Jongh, the Boks are on their way to building a dynasty. By adding these players to the squad in conjunction with senior ones who know the systems, the Boks have the best recipe for success.
‘I don’t know about any criticism of the squad system,’ De Villiers told keo.co.za. ‘I do what I want, and I don’t listen to what other people want and their opinions. Some people call me strong-willed, but two years ago I was appointed to make rugby decisions.
‘We’re looking to 2011 and beyond. Now is the time to look beyond the World Cup. There will also come a time in the future when we’ll just look at the now, then people will probably have stuff to say again.
‘As long as the camp knows where we’re going, I don’t have to explain that to other people.
‘In 2012, we don’t want to start with a completely new squad. Guys have to be acquainted with the systems and ethos of Bok rugby.’
De Villiers will have to manage the players wisely to ensure they remain on top of their game at the right times, while important combinations must get game-time together so that they’re accustomed to pressure situations when they arise.
Those players that step in will also have to ensure that the momentum is maintained against the Azzurri after a solid start to the international season over the last two weekends.
De Villiers agreed that he’s in the envious position of having the best players in the world at his disposal.
‘One of my biggest challenges is to keep guys fresh ahead of the World Cup,’ De Villiers said of his decision to rest players. ‘Danie hasn’t started this many games in a row in his career and we don’t want to push our luck. Danie is easily the best lock in the country at the moment, but we’ve got Bakkies Botha as one of three back-up locks to consider for the Test.
‘We also have Jaque replaced by Jean [de Villiers]. That’s an unthinkable situation to be in. I go back two years ago when I selected my first squad of 45. People said I didn’t know what I was doing and that I didn’t know which players to select.
‘If we end this year with 45 players good enough to go through to the World Cup, that’s ideal. We only need 30, so in case 15 guys retire, we’ve got back-ups.’
The Boks look intent on highlighting all the malfunctions in their showings and rectifying those. After defeating Wales captain John Smit described the performance as ordinary, and De Villiers said despite outplaying the French, they weren’t entirely content.
‘We had a few harsh words on Sunday night. We can never be happy and we have to learn from world rugby. There were a few things that weren’t up to standard. Our decision-making was a big talking point.
‘There were a few aimless kicks and our defence wasn’t where it should have been. We want a day where the structures are so good everyone has complete faith in them.’
By Grant Ball, in Witbank