Springboks coach Peter de Villiers confirmed that Bismarck du Plessis will start against Samoa.
Du Plessis has been in white hot form in recent months, but has had to be content with cameos in the final quarter given De Villiers’ loyalty to captain John Smit. He was omitted from the squad to play Namibia, but De Villiers has now revealed he will be in the run-on side for the Test against the islanders next Friday.
‘The one thing I can tell you today is that Bissie will start. John needs a rest. He’s like Duracell [batteries] at the moment, he just keeps on going. Not that he squeals, but I have to manage him too,’ De Villiers said.
The coach also revealed Bakkies Botha has suffered a recurrence of the Achilles tendon. ‘He’s a worry at the moment. I don’t think that Bakkies is where I want him to be,’ he said. ‘He’s such a valuable player in our side but a 90% fit Bakkies won’t be good enough. He’ll have to be 100 per cent. He’s in doubt for Samoa. We’ll be guided by the medical team and by Bakkies himself.’
The Springboks struggled in their opener against Wales but easily negotiated the challenge of Fiji and Namibia. Asked to assess where his team stood at this point in the tournament, De Villiers said: ‘It’s like going on a flight. You know where you want to be but everything up in the air causes you to go off your course. But the main thing is to land safely at the airport and we’re on our way to the airport.”
Samoa are favoured to beat Fiji in Auckland on Sunday but will hope that Fiji do them a favour when they play Wales next week, then beat the Springboks, in order to progress from the pool. De Villiers was lavish in his praise of the islanders: ‘Samoa is actually a revelation in world rugby. They’re in the minds of the people. They were a minnow but they’re not any more,’ he said. ‘Samoa is New Zealand’s second team. They’ve been coached like New Zealand, they act like New Zealand, they play like New Zealand.’