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De Villiers shows loyalty as he names 700 cap starting XV

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NZPA     14 Jul 2010     Getty Images

De Villiers must lift his players' spirits considerably ahead of Saturday's second Tri-Nations test against the All Blacks here after being bulldozed 32-12 in the tournament opener at Auckland last weekend.

Rather than make the sort of changes commentators in South Africa were demanding, the coach has rolled out the same starting 15 aside from two enforced changes.

Banned lock Bakkies Botha is replaced by Bulls teammate Danie Rossouw while injured tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis makes way for CJ van der Linde.

Rossouw will play his 50th test while van der Linde has clocked up 60, bringing the total starting caps to a whopping 700.

Players such midfield back Wynand Olivier, halfback Ricky Januarie, No 8 Pierre Spies, flanker Francois Louw and even hooker/captain John Smit were heavily criticised at home following South Africa's biggest loss in 40 tests but de Villiers is counting on them to bounce back from what he admits was a substandard display at Eden Pack.

"I trust this bunch of people. They weren't on song on Saturday but they weren't bad. It's just that the All Blacks were very good," he said.

"These boys are much better than what we showcased on Saturday and it's time for them to stand up."

De Villiers' credentials have often been questioned -- both in South Africa and beyond -- since replacing World Cup-winning mentor Jake White in 2008.

His winning record, particularly against New Zealand, stacks up as better than White but the outspoken coach still has his detractors -- some because of his outspoken and sometimes bizarre comments.

He was at it again today when asked whether he would take a hands-on approach to motivating the players.

"It's more like a doctor. You just prescribe the stuff and see if they take the tablets to get better," he said.

"You don't kick any dog that's down... I hope I can do my job properly.

"When Tiger Woods has a bad day, it doesn't mean he's not the No 1 golf player in the world. He's just had a bad day."

De Villiers' described his players as "great professionals" before making a remark which will fuel the suspicions of those who believe he is more of a facilitator than a hands-on coach.

"Everything you tell them about the game, they already know."

The depth at his disposal is clear, with Rossouw beating off another strong locking option in Stormers' star Super 14 performer Andries Bekker while van der Linde has leapfrogged scrummaging hard man BJ Botha.

Both have been inactive for more than a month. Rossouw started the first two tests of the year while van der Linde's only start was the 34-31 defeat of Wales in Cardiff on June 5.

"I never gave CJ his rightful chance this year. We expect a lot from him and that hunger can make a difference," de Villiers said.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry and captain Richie McCaw were both unsurprised at the lack of Springbok changes.

McCaw said it was common to ask players stung by a big loss to immediately make amends.

"A lot of those guys are experienced so they will back themselves and obviously the coaches are backing them to play better this week," he told NZPA.

"They think they'll front up better and we've just got to make sure that we do as well."

Tactically, he said it was unlikely the visitors would overhaul their kicking-based game.

"We've got to be ready for anything. They will look at how we defended and I'm sure they will see some opportunities but my pick is that they will try and execute what they were going to last week better."