Bok backs’ time to gel

Juan de Jongh doesn’t foresee a problem regarding the synergy between himself and Morne Steyn due to a lack of game time together.

On Saturday Steyn and De Jongh will pair up in the vital 10-12 axis for the first time in a match. Peter de Villiers has rotated throughout all three June internationals, and in the midfield De Jongh and Jaque Fourie were used against Wales, Wynand Olivier and Fourie against France, and Butch James and Jean de Villiers against Italy.

In East London the Stormers midfield of De Jongh and Fourie have been reunited in a back division that sees six Stormers players, and nine in the starting team. Steyn is the exception as the lone Bull in the backs, and De Jongh believes this is the prime opportunity for the pair to gel ahead of the Tri-Nations, which is just two weeks away.

‘Morne is a really good player, and the whole backline helps in situations like these,’ De Jongh told keo.co.za. ‘This is nothing new on the table for me and it won’t be too difficult in terms of building up our combination. I’m just glad to start another Test [his second in the run-on XV] and guys like Jaque and Bryan Habana have guided me throughout the season.’

De Jongh has been selected ahead of last year’s incumbent Jean de Villiers and Wynand Olivier, who had a strong Super 14, and is another player  not playing in his best position. De Jongh is playing in his unfavoured position of inside centre, and while his distribution is lacking at times, he’s delivered some strong performances since being granted an opportunity in last year’s Currie Cup.

‘Inside centre and outside centre really are two very different positions,’ he said. ‘I’ve been playing at No 12 for nearly a year now, and the more I play, the more I enjoy it. I prefer 13, but I’m having a good time playing both.

‘At outside there’s more space and you have to be pretty direct, while at 12 there’s more organisation. I’ve been lucky to have worked with quality inside centres like Butch James, Jean and also our [assistant] coach Dick Muir, who used to play No 12 himself.’

When De Jongh, Fourie and De Villiers return to Western Province and the Stormers, they are again set to do battle for two spots in the midfield. De Villiers has been ousted to the wing on this occasion, where he last played five years ago in 2005 when the Boks went down to the All Blacks to a last minute try.

De Jongh says the competition for places and depth will be necessary in an expanded Super 15 next year.

‘I can’t say much about being selected ahead of Jean for this match. There’s a lekker gees in the squad ahead of the Tri-Nations, and every game is an opportunity to cement a place, whether its 20 minutes or 80 minutes.

‘When you have class players like Jean and Jaque competing for places, it’s a matter of giving your best every time you’re on the field.’

By Grant Ball, in East London