Colour me shocked: Pieter de Villiers has gone and picked very close to the best South African squad available to him. There’s an argument for the inclusion of the crafty Adie Jacobs over the more athletic Juan de Jong, and maybe the untrammeled running ability and pace of Lwazi Mvovo over the experience of Odwa Ndungane, but they’re very close calls. Likewise Flip van der Merwe’s youth and aggression gave him a good shot, but de Villiers has opted instead for the lineout skills and leadership that Ulster’s Johann Muller brings to the cause.
Tri-Nations underperformers Ashley Johnson, Jean Deysel and Deon Stegmann are all axed from the backrow to make way for the return of Schalk, Heinrich Brussouw and somewhat surprisingly, Bath-bound Albert Louw. Juan Smith had to withdraw from selection last week due to his failure to sufficiently recover from injury, and while a player of his calibre would be a loss to any team in international rugby, it could mean that we see Schalk take on the South African No7 blindside jersey [they just had to be different] in a Brussouw/Burger/Spies backrow that looks very tasty. Then again, the wrecking-ball qualities of the Sharks’ Willem Alberts might well be employed on the blindside, or ironman Danie Russouw – who started all three of South Africa’s knockout wins in their successful RWC07 campaign at No8 – could be called into play, in what is an area of tremendous depth for the Boks. Continue reading