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Rugby | Springboks

Doubtful JP included for England test

The good news for the Springboks on Wednesday was that wing JP Pietersen was considered fit enough to be selected in the starting team for Saturday’s final test of this tour and the 2012 season against England at Twickenham.

However, there is still no guarantee that Pietersen will play on Saturday as he is still not taking a full part in training. Coach Heyneke Meyer said he would make a decision on Pietersen at the last possible minute, and it appears the same will apply to the other injury doubt building up to this final test match of the year, loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp.

“I am very confident that JP will be fit to play against England but at this stage he is still not running fully,” said Meyer after naming an unchanged team from the one that started in the 21-10 win over Scotland in Edinburgh last week.

“I will give JP until Friday to prove his fitness. Hopefully by then there will be an improvement. I would hesitate to describe Gurthro as 100%. We are at a stage of the season where there are lots of little niggles and very few players are 100%. Hopefully Gurthro will be ready, I am sure he will be.”

Asked if starting with Steenkamp if he wasn’t fully fit might entail an element of risk, Meyer pointed to the new laws being a safety net.

“There isn’t really a risk as the laws dictate that we choose a whole extra front-row on the bench so we will be well covered there. We have Heinke van der Merwe as back-up and he played really well for us at a crucial stage after coming onto the field against Ireland in Dublin.”

Meyer said that although he wasn’t satisfied with either performance so far on tour, there was never really any debate about whether he should stick with his policy of continuity in selection.

“It is good to stick with the same team if you can and we do want some continuity. The performances so far may not have been complete, but we did win, so I am happy to stick with the same team,” he said.

The Bok coach said that beating England was going to require a big mental lift from his players, who are feeling the effects both physically and psychologically of a long season.

“I think what is important in this match is that we get the minds ready even if the bodies aren’t,” said Meyer.

“It is amazing what the mind can do, and the players also know that I am a coach who doesn’t like excuses. So they are just going to have to show mental toughness and dig deep, and I am sure they will. There won’t be a full team training this afternoon (Wednesday), there will be a lot of guys sitting out, but the challenge is to be ready and switched on by Saturday.”

Meyer added that the fact lock Eben Etzebeth had been cleared to play after being found not guilty of foul play in his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday evening would galvanise his men.

“We are fortunate to have Flip van der Merwe, who has really being playing well as a No 4 lock and was very good for us when we played the All Blacks in Dunedin. But Eben is such a good player that I really think he may be the best No 4 lock in the world at the moment. He has helped us to a 100% record in the lineouts in recent games and he also adds considerable weight to the scrums.

“He is also an important presence in the team as an enforcer, a player who helps us get the physical superiority on our opponents. Against England he has an important role to play so we are really pleased that he was cleared to play.”

South Africa: Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (capt), Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe, Pat Cilliers, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee,Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo.


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