Bakkies Botha has been declared fit and will start in the Springboks’ Tri-Nations opener against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.
Botha and Danie Rossouw were doubtful for the clash at Eden Park as they were suffering knee injuries during the week. However, both players have passed fitness tests and will feature for the Boks this weekend – Botha alongside Victor Matfield in the second row while Rossouw will provide lock and loose forward cover on the bench.
‘Bakkies is an old stalwart and with Victor they form a formidable combination,’ Bok head coach Peter de Villiers told stuff.co.nz. ‘They understand each other. Bakkies will always bring that something extra, so for us it’s a plus to have him available.
‘Both of them [Botha and Rossouw] were outstanding in the Super 14 and it’s just reward for them to be part of the mix. I’m so blessed to have a guy like Danie to fall back on if anything happens to the back three, and he can cover lock too. Then again Andries had a good Super 14 and I can’t wait to let him loose on the field.’
In other selections, Jean de Villiers and Zane Kirchner start at wing and fullback respectively which sees Gio Aplon drop to the bench. Wynand Olivier also partners Jaque Fourie in the midfield.
With Aplon – who started against Wales, France and Italy – left on the bench, De Villiers denied that he took a ‘bigger is better’ approach to this weekend’s Test.
‘We’ve got a few guys in our team whose hearts are bigger than their bodies,’ De Villiers said. ‘You can easily be fooled by physicality alone. We’ve got a holistic approach. The skill level of our team is quite high too, so we’ve struck a happy medium with the guys we’ve got in our team.
‘Last year it [team selection] was a bit easier. We only had that starting XV and seven guys on the bench. This year in almost all positions we have to sit down and think what will be best for this Test. That makes it difficult to go to a guy and explain why he’s not part of it. I just hope the players that are there will reward us with a great performance.’
De Villiers continued: ‘I think the circumstances that we find ourselves in have necessitated this kind of selection. We expect a soft field because it’s a little bit wet here. We have gone for stability more than anything else and if you look at the guys that we chose then these are the guys that brought the stability in the Super 14. We are confident that the team we selected will be up for the challenge.’
Springboks – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Jean de Villiers, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 BJ Botha, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon.