De Villiers has faith in new-look South Africa
Published 04/11/2010 | 16:33
Peter de Villiers admitted he had little choice when selecting his South Africa team for their Grand Slam tour opener against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
The Springbok coach included uncapped flanker Deon Stegmann in his starting XV, while rising young star Patrick Lambie could also play his first game if centre Jean de Villiers fails a late fitness test.
The 20-year-old Sharks back, who has played full-back, fly-half and centre this season, was named man of the match in the Currie Cup final over the weekend with his 25-point haul helping his team beat Western Province 30-10.
He is on stand-by in case Jean de Villiers fails to overcome his groin problem and, if he does, will then drop to the bench where he is bracketed alongside another newcomer in wing Lwazi Mvovo.
Two further uncapped players were named among the replacements. Loose forward Willem Alberts is struggling with a calf problem with Keegan Daniel waiting in the wings.
Bulls forward Stegmann, 24, was only added to the squad this week after Schalk Burger withdrew because of a broken rib he sustained in Currie Cup final.
In total, the team shows eight changes to the one which last played against Australia during the Tri Nations, with Victor Matfield captaining the world champions in the absence of injured John Smit.
"It's a new-look side but with 13 season-ending injuries it couldn't be anything else," Peter de Villiers said.
"But we're looking on the positive side and this is a great opportunity to test some new players in the toughest conditions.
"We also have a number of senior players returning to the team after long lay-offs for one reason or another and they are keen to re-stake their claim to a starting place.
"We've not had much time to bed this new team together but the players have worked hard all week to be as well prepared as we possibly can be."
Props Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis will make their first appearances of the season, while lock Bakkies Botha returns after suspension.
Reflecting on Stegmann's selection, the coach said: "Deon is an open-side in the traditional style and has been outstanding for his province.
"He is used to playing with Pierre (Spies) and we need an out and out specialist to counter Ireland at the breakdown."
But the big talking point is certainly at centre.
If former Munster midfielder Jean de Villiers does fail his fitness test, it means full-back Zane Kirchner, who only has 10 caps to his name, could play alongside Lambie in one of the most untried pairing in recent Springbok memory.
The coach, however, has confidence in his selections.
He added: "Our hand has been forced in our centre selection.
"Hopefully Jean will recover in time but if not, Patrick Lambie has played at inside centre for the Sharks before he was moved to 10 and Zane is defensively strong and a strong ball runner."
Ulster-based Ruan Pienaar returns to the number nine jersey he last wore against the Wallabies in July.
After their clash at the Aviva Stadium, the Springboks play Wales in Cardiff followed by matches against Scotland, England and the Barbarians.
South Africa team to face Ireland at Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Saturday, November 6:
G Aplon; B Basson, Z Kirchner, J de Villiers/P Lambie, B Habana; M Steyn, R Pienaar; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, B Botha, V Matfield, D Stegmann, J Smith, P Spies.
Replacements: C Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, F van der Merwe, W Alberts/K Daniel, F Hougaard, A Jacobs, P Lambie/L Mvovo.