Rugby Union: South African selectors under fire: Callard incensed over choice of tourist for forthcoming visit

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TO THE consternation of Jonathan Callard, South Africa yesterday included in their tour party for 13 matches in Wales, Scotland and Ireland the man whose gratuitous footwork opened up the full-back's head when England played Eastern Province in June.

Elandre van den Berg was on the bench when the Springboks beat Argentina on Saturday. Though a lock for EP, he is selected for the tour as a flanker. The England players - in particular Callard, who required 25 stitches in that wound - are still incredulous that the referee's only sanction on Van den Berg was a penalty, and that first the Eastern Province RU and then Sarfu failed to act further.

'You are joking,' Callard said when your correspondent informed him of his assailant's selection. For Callard, this choice is an inappropriate response not only to his own ghastly injury but to the violent incidents on the recent tour of New Zealand which culminated in Johan le Roux's being sent home for biting Sean Fitzpatrick's ear.

'It's a disgrace, really,' Callard said. 'Are they going to have an incident like Le Roux, where they're going to send a man home in disgrace when they should have seen it coming well in advance? I don't think any other nation would have done it.'

Never mind English sensitivities, Kitch Christie, the new coach, is unapologetic: 'I've spoken to Elandre and he told me he didn't mean to rake the guy's face. A Sarfu enquiry cited him and they cleared him. I reckon we've got to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.'

There is enough joy over South African sinners for a number to be chosen. Van den Berg and Balie Swart are two tourists who have been suspended after testing positive for drugs. Drikus Hattingh, who gave up shot-putting when he was banned from athletics for the same reason, was suspended for much of the South African season for kicking a New South Wales forward in the head.

The South African party, due to arrive on Wednesday week, include only 18 of the injury-plagued 36 who were in New Zealand and just seven of those who came to England and France as recently as 1992. There are six uncapped players.

Christie, formerly coach of Transvaal, has persuaded Uli Schmidt, his provincial hooker, to rescind his international retirement - and his reluctance to visit these shores. Two years ago Schmidt, who is notable for his view that South African blacks should stick to football, withdrew from the tour because he did not believe he would be welcome.

SOUTH AFRICA TOUR PARTY: Full-backs: G Johnson (Transvaal), A Joubert (Natal); Wings: *C Badenhorst (Orange Free State), P Hendriks (Transvaal), J Small (Natal), C Williams (Western Province); Centres: J Mulder (Transvaal), P Muller (Natal), C Scholtz (Transvaal), B Venter (Orange Free State); Outside-halves: H le Roux (Transvaal), J Stransky (Western Province); Scrum-halves: *K Putt (Natal), J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); Props: P du Randt (Orange Free State), *I Hattingh (Transvaal), T Laubscher (Western Province), B Swart (Transvaal); Locks: M Andrews (Natal), H Hattingh (Northern Transvaal), *P Schutte, K Wiese (Transvaal); Flankers: R Kruger (Northern Transvaal), F Pienaar (capt), R Straeuli (Transvaal), *E van den Berg (Eastern Province); No 8s: C Strauss (Western Province), *G Teichmann (Natal). Manager: J Engelbrecht. Coach: K Christie. Assistant coach: G Pienaar.

* denotes uncapped player.

ITINERARY: 22 October Cardiff; 26 October Wales A (Newport); 29 October Llanelli; 2 November Neath; 5 November Swansea; 9 November Scotland A (Melrose); 12 November Scottish Combined Districts (Glasgow); 15 November Scottish Selection (Aberdeen); 19 November SCOTLAND (Edinburgh); 22 November Pontypridd; 26 November WALES (Cardiff); 29 November Combined Irish Provinces (Belfast); 3 December Barbarians (Dublin).

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