Bismarck du Plessis will start ahead of John Smit in Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks while Morne Steyn has been preferred at flyhalf.
This will mark Du Plessis’ first Test since he played against England in November 2010. Smit injured his elbow in last week’s game, but Peter de Villiers says it was always the plan to hand Du Plessis an extended run in the final game of the Tri-Nations.
‘You want to give the 30 players [who will go to the World Cup] hope of playing in a World Cup final,’ he said. ‘John is ready to go to the World Cup, he’s come a long way since [the first Test of the season in] Sydney. It’s good to have that competition within the side, it’s important that he keeps Bissie on his toes and vice versa.
‘I also have to give Bissie a fair chance to show what he can do, and so I am looking forward to [his performance] this weekend.’
De Villiers has also selected Morne Steyn at flyhalf and dispatched Butch James to the bench. The Bok coach said he needs to give Steyn one final opportunity before the World Cup, and that Steyn’s goal-kicking will be a big asset.
‘The World Cup is so often decided on kicking, and we have a 90% kicker [in Steyn]. It’s important that we give Morne some time to play in this [first-choice] team. I want to assess him playing alongside guys like Fourie du Preez and the other [first-choice] players who he hasn’t played with for six months.’
Frans Steyn has been ruled out of this Test with a hamstring injury, and De Villiers has decided to select Pat Lambie at fullback ahead of Gio Aplon. Lambie was initially omitted from the squad for the two home Tests, but the injury to Steyn has seen him recalled, and now fast-tracked, into the starting side.
The other change to the run-on XV sees Willem Alberts slotting in at blindside flank. De Villiers said it’s an important game for Alberts as he will be a key figure at the World Cup in New Zealand.
‘He showed what he could do on the tour [to the home nations] last year. If he can bring what he has to what we’ve already got then it will be very good for the World Cup. We need him to come good.’
Victor Matfield will lead the team in the absence of Smit, although Smit has been included on a bench that sees a 5-2 split. The Boks are likely to deploy an entirely new front row during the second half of Saturday’s match.
‘Gurthro has just come back from a long injury lay-off, so he may not last the 80 minutes. Jannie is No 1 in his position and he showed that last week, so we just have to be sensible about the way we manage him.’
Springboks – 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 John Smit, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Butch James.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Port Elizabeth