Lack of game time worries Bok legend

Former Springbok André Joubert, a member of the Bok side that lost the 1997 series to the British & Irish Lions, is worried that a lack of recent game time could count against the hosts ahead of the 2009 series opener in Durban this Saturday. [more]

Lack of game time worries Bok legend

Former Springbok André Joubert, a member of the Bok side that lost the 1997 series to the British & Irish Lions, is worried that a lack of recent game time could count against the hosts ahead of the 2009 series opener in Durban this Saturday.

Fullback legend Joubert started the first two Tests against the ’97 Lions in Cape Town and Durban, both of which SA lost, before the home team salvaged some pride by winning the third Test in Johannesburg.

And Joubert – known as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of fullbacks in his heyday – is concerned that this weekend’s meeting between the world champions and their famous opponents could head the same way as 1997; due, mainly, to the Boks’ recent inactivity.

"The big pressure the Boks will face is that they have not effectively played together since last year’s tour (of Wales, Scotland and England)," said Joubert.

"Don’t get me wrong, the Lions are a well-drilled unit, but my biggest worry is that, aside from that one game against Namibia last month, the Boks have not played together – as a team – for some time."

Interestingly, in 1997 the Springboks had a warm-up Test against Tonga 11 days before the first Test – a game the Boks won 74-10, before losing 16-25 to the Lions – but Joubert was quick to cease all talk of that series.

"A lot of people are still talking about 1997 and about revenge and all kinds of things, but I think everyone needs to put that series behind them," said the 1995 World Cup-winning fullback.

"Plenty has changed since then, but the fact remains; the Lions have had six matches and the Boks – without all their Bulls – have had one game together in the last month. That is my only concern at this stage – it has nothing to do with history."

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Andre Joubert (front left) tasted Test defeat against the Lions 12 years ago

But looking at the Bok line-up that was announced on Tuesday, Joubert seemed happy enough with Peter de Villiers’s selection – except in his former position, with World Cup-winning inside centre Frans Steyn being handed the No.15 shirt.

"I would have chosen Stefan Terblanché at fullback," said the 34-Test veteran.

"Frans Steyn, for all his potential, is a bit too selfish for my liking; he tries to do too much on his own at times. I really do hope he proves me wrong, but I would’ve liked to have seen Terblanché in the No.15 jersey… or maybe even Ruan Pienaar, who played there at the 2007 World Cup (against Tonga)."

And looking at the rest of the South African teamsheet, Joubert added: "I know some people believe Jaque Fourie should be starting at outside centre ahead of Adrian Jacobs, but Adi was a star last year and he backed that up again for the Sharks during the Super 14."

Joubert, 45, played all his professional rugby for the Sharks and still resides in Durban where he ended his career after the 1999 Currie Cup Final at his beloved ABSA Stadium.

"I’ll be there on Saturday, supporting the Boks," he said, "I’m taking my son to his first Test; I’m not sure who’s more excited!"

And as for a Test series prediction, Joubert replied: "Their lack of game time aside, I am tipping the Boks to take it.

"To me, Brian O’Driscoll is the Lions’ outstanding player and their key man. I don’t think they have a particularly star-studded line-up, which makes them a dangerous proposition because they play as a team…they tend to play for each other and because O’Driscoll has been around for so long, he fits into their gameplan so easily.

"Their biggest chance (to win) will be on Saturday, but the Boks are capable of bouncing back from being one-nil down in the series. They’re always a dangerous outfit and it’s not for nothing that we’re the current world champions."

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