White reshuffles as All Blacks brace for backlash

NZPA     01 Sep 2006

White made five personnel and six positional changes to his side for the Test in Rustenberg after the All Blacks' 45-26 win in Pretoria last weekend.

Notably axed was veteran fullback Percy Montgomery, first five-eighth Butch James and loose forwards Jacques Cronje and Solly Tyibilika.

In comes veteran loose forward AJ Venter for Cronje at No 8, Bulls flanker Pedrie Wannenburg for Tyibilika, Andre Pretorius for James and centre Wynand Olivier for Montgomery, with Jaque Fourie trading the No 13 jersey for Montgomery's No 15.

The only injury casualty from last weekend was prop CJ van der Linde (neck), replaced by BJ Botha.

The changes were both a signal that the Springboks needed experience in the loose trio with Sharks captain Venter, named for his 24th Test and first in two years, and a more attacking approach from Pretorius after the Springboks backs were exposed by the All Blacks in Pretoria.

It was a move the All Blacks expected.

"I think the South Africans will be up for it, there's been a lot of motivational press for them," Henry said yesterday.

"I'd imagine they'd make quite a few changes and try to keep the ball in hand at the weekend."

Meanwhile the tourists, basking in a 15-match winning streak, enjoyed their rostered day off at the Sun City resort.

Some played golf at the Lost City course beside their hotel, featuring a crocodile pit as a novelty water hazard on the 13th hole.

Others took to the wave pool, an artificial beach complete with sand and electronically generated waves.

Flanker Jerry Collins, who returns to the starting lineup after setting up tries for wings Sitiveni Sivivatu and Rico Gear in a cameo off the bench last weekend, said the changes would make a big difference to the Springboks' state of mind as they try to shake five losses in a row.

"Every player knows what it's like to be on the other side of the ledger," Collins said.

"We've never played here but it sounds like a pretty tough place to play. They're going to chuck in some guys who are going to be pretty keen to stamp their mark and cement their places.

"We've had a pretty good season and losing the last game is going to last in our minds for a long time."

White said he'd done all he could in the hope of a Springboks turnaround this weekend.

Local media have turned up the heat on White, suggesting he faces the sack if the team lose to the All Blacks then the Wallabies for a South African record seven-match losing streak.

"Speculation on the (future of the) Springbok coach's job comes every week," he said.

"It's been no different since I got the job.

"It is difficult -- I would be naive if I said I was going along as though everything was fine, but the secret is to stay focused, to make sure that when the team look at you they see the right body language.

"As long as you prepare properly and have the team ready to play a test match, that's the best you can do."

Captain John Smit also issued some fighting talk, pleading for patience from the rugby public.

"We will certainly come out of this. We've had a good two years and I fully believe that this is a temporary situation.

"We are the only team to have beaten the All Blacks in the last three years, and we've done it twice, and come close to beating them twice more."

South Africa: Jaque Fourie, Akona Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Andre Pretorius, Fourie du Preez, AJ Venter, Pierre Spies, Pedrie Wannenburg, Victor Matfield, Johann Muller, BJ Botha, John Smit (captain), Os du Randt. Reserves: Chilliboy Ralepelle, Lawrence Sephaka, Albert van den Berg, Jacques Cronje, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Breyton Paulse.