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Boks beefed up for All Blacks

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Sportal.co.nz     22 Jul 2009     Getty Images

De Villiers announced his starting XV on Tuesday for the clash in Bloemfontein with the Sharks midfielder the most notable absentee due to a groin injury, alongside flanker Schalk Burger, serving a 12-week ban for 'eye gouging' during the second Test against the British and Irish Lions last month.

In total, there are six changes to the team that was beaten 28-9 by the Lions in the final Test on July 5 with Odwa Ndungane, Jongi Nokwe, Johann Muller, Wynand Olivier, Morne Steyn and Ryan Kankowski no longer in the starting line-up.

The latter three have dropped to the bench, while JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Pierre Spies and Bakkies Botha, who returns from a two-week suspension, all come in.

But the biggest disappointment for the coach was the unavailability of Jacobs, a player that has started 13 out of 16 Tests under his leadership.

De Villiers said: "It was a big setback to lose Adi, as he has been in our plans for a long time.

"Adi is a part of our plans and the way we want to play. When we sat down and looked at all our centres we looked at all the guys who are similar to each other because we didn't want to change too much.

"But with Jaque coming in, the plans won't change that much. They are very similar players and we will look to play a similar style of rugby with Jaque now at number 13.

"Jean [de Villiers] and Jaque worked well together as a team two years ago. I am excited that they are reunited and look forward to seeing what they can do."

Fourie's place on the bench has been taken by Bulls counterpart Olivier, called up on Monday as cover for Jacobs, while Jannie du Plessis, the Sharks prop who was not part of the last series, is also amongst the replacements, with Andries Bekker the unlucky player to miss out from the initial 23-man squad.

Another debatable decision by De Villiers was the axing of Morne Steyn - the first five-eighths who kicked the winning penalty goal against the Lions - from the starting team and the inclusion of Ruan Pienaar in his place.

He continued: "It is always going to be a difficult decision to pick a team when you have players of the calibre we have.

"It was a difficult decision to choose between Ruan and Morne, you always have difficult decisions as a coach.

"In rugby, you can't look too far ahead, so I will say that if injury hits, we will consider starting Steyn at fly-half."

Asked whether he was concerned about the Springbok defence, which seemed to be exploited despite the series win against the Lions, De Villiers added: "You can't fulfil that commitment all the time.

"There will be holes sometimes in rugby because you're playing against the best in the world.

"I don't think that we were too bad in our defence, it's just that the Lions studied us and they exploited some weaknesses in our defence."

The team is: 1 - T Mtawarira (Sharks), 2 - B du Plessis (Sharks), 3 - J Smit (Sharks), 4 - B Botha (Bulls), 5 - V Matfield (Bulls), 6 - H Brussow (Cheetahs), 7 - J Smith (Cheetahs), 8 - P Spies (Bulls), 9 - F du Preez (Bulls); 10 - R Pienaar (Sharks), 11 - B Habana (Bulls); 12 - J de Villiers (Stormers), 13 - J Fourie (Lions), 14 - JP Pietersen (Sharks), 15 - F Steyn (Sharks).

Replacements: 16 - C Ralepelle (Bulls), 17 - J du Plessis (Sharks), 18 - D Rossouw (Bulls), 19 - R Kankowski (Sharks), 20 - R Januarie (Stormers), 21 - M Steyn (Bulls), 22 - W Olivier (Bulls).