Bakkies leads World XV into battle

Bakkies Botha will captain the World XV against the Springboks at Newlands on Saturday.

The veteran lock leads an experienced side containing former Springboks JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls) and Gurthrö Steenkamp (Toulouse) with Flip van der Merwe (Bulls) among the replacements.

Coach Robbie Deans described Botha, 35, as the 'natural choice' to take charge as the invitation side prepare to test Heyneke Meyer’s men as they start their buildup to the World Cup.

'For a long time Bakkies has been a huge presence in the game here so it’ll be a real occasion when he leads the World XV out against his country,' said Deans. 'He's really enjoyed this week, mixing with those he’s played against and he’s been a big contributor in helping the group come together. He was leading before he was appointed leader.'

The World XV have a battle-hardened pack with Botha (85 caps), lining up with New Zealand’s Ali Williams (77) in the second row, while props Steenkamp (53) and Carl Hayman (45) also bring significant experience.

There are eight of Toulon’s treble-winning European champions in the starting side, including two brothers in fullback Delon Armitage and flanker Steffon Armitage, the 2014 European Player of the Year.

'This is an important game for South Africa,' Deans added. 'They’ve got a Rugby Championship game next weekend so they’ll be looking for a good hit-out and we’ll provide that for them. We want to be competitive in the first instance so we can assist them in their buildup.

'There’s a few locals in the group and it’ll be a unique experience for them but there’s also a lot of blokes who have played Test rugby, who may not get the chance to play at Newlands again so it’s going to be special for many reasons.

'We’ve also got some young blokes who have yet to taste Test rugby but who will do in the future and it’s a great occasion for them. If it’s not a first Test cap, it’s as close as you can get.'

World XV – 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Lachlan Turner, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Bakkies Botha (c), 4 Ali Williams, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Rudi Wulf.

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Simon Borchardt