Boks have a lock on experience
The most experienced lock pairing in the history of world rugby will be re-united against Italy on Saturday when Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha play together for a 60th time.
Matfield will skipper the Springboks for the 11th time while John Smit recovers from his hamstring injury.
The team is likely to show six changes from the one that thrashed France at the weekend.
Botha is fit and available again after serving out his suspension of four weeks and undergoing minor knee surgery.
He will be short of match-fitness, but that is good news for the Boks’ Tri-Nations plans.
Danie Rossouw will be rested and injuries have necessitated two changes. Chiliboy Ralepelle will replace John Smit at hooker, while Bandise Maku is likely to be on the substitutes bench as cover.
Team doctor Craig Roberts said that Smit could be out of action for 10 days.
“He underwent a scan today and there is a grade one tear to the hamstring. If everything goes well, he should be available for the second test against Italy in East London.”
Maku joined up with the squad on Monday.
Players like Gary Botha and Tiaan Liebenberg will probably just shake their heads about Maku’s inclusion, but coach Peter de Villiers emphasised that he is experimenting.
“I’m not building a house, but just shifting the furniture around a little,” the coach said with one of his typical analogies.
“The idea is to arrive at the best 45 players to pick my World Cup squad of 30 players from. I have given the best lock in the country (Rossouw) a rest, but still have three others that can play at any time.”
Rossouw’s rest is likely to hand Flip van der Merwe another chance as substitute lock. Alistair Hargreaves is also likely to see action in East London.
Roberts said that Andries Bekker is recovering from his back injury and should also be considered for the next test.
Schalk Burger is the other injured player. His ankle injury is likely to open the door for Dewald Potgieter.
Potgieter is likely to play with Francois Louw and Pierre Spies in the loose-trio, with Ryan Kankowski set to do duty on the substitutes bench.
At training on Monday Spies amazed teammates by slotting a drop goal of 60m.
The centre pairing of Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie will be rested. Jean de Villiers and Butch James will be the midfield combination.