Wed, Aug 23, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Springboks looking for redemption at home after disastrous Antipodean tour

AFP , JOHANNESBURG

South Africa's Percy Montgomery, front, is wrapped up by Australia's George Smith, bottom, and Matt Giteau during their rugby union Test in Sydney on Aug. 5.

PHOTO: AP

They returned home two weeks ago with their pride dented and their reputations battered, but back on home soil the Springboks have a great opportunity to make up for their woeful displays in Australia and New Zealand over the last few weeks.

With the southern hemisphere's Tri-Nations series already settled following New Zealand's win over Australia last weekend, it is hoped South African coach Jake White will give some promising youngsters a chance to show what they're capable of in the remaining three matches.

With little at stake for the home side, pundits agree this is the perfect opportunity for the under-fire coach to test new talent with an eye on next year's World Cup in France.

The feeling is the senior men of the side like Percy Montgomery and Os du Randt are way off the pace of Test rugby and that they, and some others, need to be given a break from the game.

Neither Montgomery nor Du Randt won admirers in Australia and New Zealand where the 'Boks went down to three-straight defeats, Montgomery's poor placekicking proving especially costly.

White described the 49-0 result against the Wallabies in the opening game as the worst day of his coaching career, and while matters improved slightly in the other two games, the 'Boks returned home without a win behind their name.

It is not so much the winless performances that have angered South Africans, but the manner in which the team have played. Some of the selections have also been questioned.

But now with matches against New Zealand (Pretoria, Saturday and Rustenburg, Sept. 2) and Australia (Johannesburg, Sept. 9) to come, White has the opportunity to change his defensive and, largely conservative, style and look to play a more open, attack-minded game.

The 'Boks have battled to create their own try-scoring chances this year, relying too heavily on defense and mistakes by the opposition for their points.

White can also look to give the likes of Sharks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar an opportunity at Test level, while finding backup to Du Randt and Montgomery, who are both into their 30s, is essential.

Other players whom White may look to with an eye on the future are prop BJ Botha, South Africa's standout tighthead prop in the Super 14, and creative backs like JP Pietersen and Brent Russell, who has hardly featured in a 'Bok jersey in the last three years but is widely considered the country's most attacking player.

Injuries however continue to dog White's preparations. Already without star players Ashwin Willemse, Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha, White is still uncertain whether lock Danie Rossouw or flyhalf Andre Pretorius will be fit to play the home Tests.

He will, however welcome back inside center Jean de Villiers after the Stormers man missed the away leg of the competition due to a broken rib.

There are also doubts about the fitness of loose forwards Juan Smith and Jacques Cronje. Pedrie Wannenburg and AJ Venter have been placed on standby should the duo not recover.

With flyhalf Jaco van der Westhuyzen dropped from the squad following the trip Down Under and Pretorius suffering from shin splints, White may again be forced to go into the home Tests with hard-tackling Sharks pivot Butch James.

It is hoped that De Villiers' return on his outside will provide the spark in the 'Bok backs.

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