Du Plessis in as Springboks coach

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The Independent Online
RUGBY UNION : Louis Luyt finally had his way yesterday when Jannie Engelbrecht was sacked as manager of the Springboks team barely four months before South Africa hosts the World Cup. It is only six weeks since the end of the successful tour of Wales, Scotland and Ireland headed by Engelbrecht.

The drama was equally in his replacement, however, the former Springbok captain Morne du Plessis being one of the few South African players who have gone so far as to apologise for the way South African rugby used to be under apartheid. Du Plessis, 45, who was capped 22 times during the boycott years, is a figure of profound respect in South Africa.

Luyt, the all-powerful president of the South African Rugby Football Union, wanted Engelbrecht out along with the coach, Ian McIntosh, after last year's losing tour of New Zealand but unlike McIntosh Engelbrecht survived after the rest of South African rugby had rallied to his cause. McIntosh was succeeded by Kitch Christie, previously coach of Transvaal.

Ironically, Du Plessis - like Engelbrecht from Western Province - was one of the old manager's staunchest supporters and he has now been appointed even though his rugby involvement has been with township development rather than in the mainstream. "I nee d ed absolute confirmation that Sarfu were unable to resolve their differences with Jannie before accepting the post," Du Plessis said.

" I have no idea what the differences were but I desperately hope fairness prevailed. Personally, I am very sorry to see him go. I think he did a great job and was the right man." The new manager has been appointed to the end of the World Cup and last night expressed no interest in carrying on after the tournament.

The Scots yesterday threw their hat into the ring to host the 1999 World Cup final but, far from using their bid as a promotional vehicle for the rebuilt Murrayfield, they were not going to make any announcement until someone happened to ask.

Initially Bill Hogg, the Scottish Rugby Union secretary speaking at an SRU press briefing, said only that Scotland would be happy to host a pool and a knock-out match. But he then went on to say that what the SRU really wanted was be the host union and stage the final and would be taking its case before the committee of home unions next month.

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