Boks lose Bakkies
England with Flood and Wilkinson in same team
South Africa lost ‘enforcer’ Bakkies Botha from the World Cup yesterday as the reigning champions, England and Wales all announced their teams for this weekend’s quarter-finals.
England manager Martin Johnson selected fly-halves Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood in the same team, with Flood outside his former Newcastle team-mate at inside-centre in the absence of the injured Mike Tindall.
With France and Ireland having shown their hand earlier in the week, it left just hosts New Zealand, Argentina and Australia to reveal their line-ups, which are due to be made public today.
In an all-northern hemisphere Saturday, Ireland face Wales in Wellington before England play France in Auckland.
But in the other half of the draw, Sunday’s matches are an all-southern affair, with South Africa up against Australia in Wellington and New Zealand taking on Argentina in Auckland.
Botha, a member of the South Africa team that won the World Cup in France four years ago, saw his involvement at this tournament ended by an Achilles injury and the 32-year-old lock admitted saying farewell to his team-mates was tough.
“I am a person who normally keeps my emotions out of sight but it was emotional to talk to the team this morning and tell them I would be going home,” said Botha.
New Zealand were already without star fly-half Dan Carter (groin) and they are trying to nurse inspirational captain Richie McCaw through the knockout phase as he deals with a long-standing foot problem.
It all led New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen to revive the debate about the need for a single ‘global’ season.
“People have got to be prepared to say their players are worth looking after and this is what we need to do in the next step in the game.
“We need a global season and the only people who can do that are the IRB,” Hansen said.
Whether Johnson would have paired Wilkinson with Flood if Tindall was fit, remains an open question. But with ace goal-kicker Wilkinson struggling with the boot, Johnson was enthused by his 10-12 duo.
“It’s an exciting combination for us, it gives us Toby’s kicking and passing game and he’s a pretty experienced player now with 40-odd Test caps, so he’s been playing well,” Johnson said.