Wednesday 21 March 2018

De Villiers forced to ring changes for injury-hit Springboks

David Kelly

David Kelly

South Africa's management were lucky to escape a potentially tragic incident during their 25-hour trek to Dublin when another passenger attempted to open an emergency door at 39,000 feet.

When the coaching staff reached the safety of ground level, coach Peter de Villiers unleashed a shock of his own by plumping for out-of-form Zane Kirchner to repel the threat of Ireland's talisman Brian O'Driscoll in tomorrow's opening November International.

The under-fire coach has been forced to make eight changes from the side that lost to Australia last time out, in the absence of 13 front-line players, with former Munster centre Jean de Villiers also unlikely to pass a fitness test on a groin injury this morning.

"We expect an onslaught from Ireland and we hope to go for the guy who is steady on defence, so that is the reason that Zane got the nod," said the coach, shrugging off concerns about 10-capper Kirchner's defence.

"Time has moved on and you look at Zane now, he is a more mature player and he instills confidence in the players around him and to us that is enough."

Exciting uncapped flanker Deon Stegmann starts, while rising young star Patrick Lambie, man of the match in last weekend's Currie Cup final, should play his first game if de Villiers fails a late fitness test.

Up front, the South Africans look far stronger and they will seek to exploit Irish weaknesses there, with props Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis making their first appearances of the season, while lock Bakkies Botha returns after suspension.

After passing a fitness test, Keith Earls has been confirmed as the final player among the Irish replacements.

The match is unlikely to be a sell-out, with the IRFU still unwilling to release tickets below face value, while 2,000 of the 4,000 packages initially put up for sale remain unsold on their website.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport