The Springboks have made five changes to their starting line-up to face Namibia at the North Habour Stadium in Auckland on Thursday.
In the back division Bryan Habana and Gio Aplon replace JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane on the wings. The latter duo are dropped from the squad completely. Francois Hougaard gets a start at his preferred position of scrumhalf, with Fourie du Preez playing off the wood.
Among the heavies, Willem Alberts starts at openside flank in place of Heinrich Brussow, whose is named among the reserves alongside another specialist fetcher, Francois Louw. CJ van der Linde earns his first start at the tournament at tighthead prop in place of Jannie du Plessis, who’ll watch from the stands.
Chiliboy Ralepelle, omitted from the 22 for the first two Tests, will get game time off the bench, while Ruan Pienaar and Juan de Jongh’s versatility means the back division are well covered.
After the victory over Fiji in Wellington coach Peter de Villiers said that he valued continuity in selection, but on Tuesday explained that he needed to rotate with a view of having a full fit squad.
‘The biggest challenge for us it to manage the players. We’ve had two bruising encounters and we have to be sensible if we want to have 30 players fit throughout the tournament. We’re getting thin in some areas, injuries are our biggest concern at this point,’ he said.
Captain John Smit acknowledged the difficulty of preparing for a match just five days after their victory in Wellington, but stressed complacency wouldn’t be a factor.
‘There are challenges every weekend, but motivation isn’t one of those. It is important for us to be ruthless. There are still a lot of areas we want to improve and if we don’t have the proper focus we won’t get what we want out of this match,’ he said. ‘This is an opportunity to carry on the journey to where we want to be and improve our standards. Having played two games here and a couple before some guys have had enough game to move towards their best form. That needs to continue.
‘In a week like this with as short a turnaround you don’t get that much field time to prepare. So the challenge is achieving perfection in the base areas of our game, the set piece and so on.’
The Springboks are expected to beat Namibia comfortably and should negotiate Samoa’s challenge without too much problems, setting up a quarter-final against Australia. Asked whether he had cast his mind ahead to that epic tussle Smit said: ‘One thing about the World Cup is that at this stage there are so many permutations floating about. If you get wrapped up in what lies ahead you may lose sight of what you want to achieve at present. We have to think a week at a time and not worry about what lies ahead.’
De Villiers was bullish when probed on the issue of Habana’s form, arguing that the former IRB Player of the Year wouldn’t have breaking the South African try-scoring record (he is the joint-highest scorer) as a central focus.
‘I don’t think people understand the ethos of this team. If you can point out one player that puts his personal interests above those of the team’s I’ll send them home immediately. There are personal goals we achieve in life and if Bryan breaks the record it will be a wonderful achievement. But what if he scores and we lose? That ultimately is no good.’
Springboks – 15 Pat Lambie, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Danie Rossouw, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 John Smit (c), Gurthro Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Francois Louw, 19 Heinrich Brüssow, 20 Fourie du Preez, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Juan de Jongh.