Springboks make all the right noises

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The Independent Online

If Kobus Wiese throws a punch at an Englishman at Twickenham on Saturday like he did at a Welshman in September, it will very likely be the end of his Springbok career. It is a salutary warning for the 18st lock before South Africa conclude the year which climaxed by winning the World Cup in June.

But the South African management have such faith in their man that when they arrived in London from Italy yesterday they would not so much as contemplate the possibility. "I would put my reputation on the fact that we will live up to our code of conduct," Morne du Plessis, the team manager, said last night.

"We feel sufficiently confident that he will not do it again - that's why he has been selected." After Wiese floored Derwyn Jones in the South Africa-Wales game in Johannesburg he was fined pounds 9,000 and suspended for 30 days, an absence only nine days longer than that enforced on the unfortunate Jones because he had been concussed.

"He was punished - and punished severely. He missed a lot of Transvaal's Currie Cup. I hope that will be sufficient deterrent." Missing Transvaal games these days means losing out financially, and with some Springboks said to be on pounds 140,000 for a year's Test rugby the disciplinary imperative has never been greater.

The Ellis Park incident was an unfortunate postscript to the World Cup, which for the Springboks reached its low point at the battle of Port Elizabeth against Canada. "In a moment of madness at Boet Erasmus we let ourselves down," Du Plessis said. "We regrouped and went through to the World Cup final without further incident but we possibly lost the emphasis again when we played Wales. We reminded ourselves of our commitment to discipline and we will work on it all the time."

By choice the South Africans are in a West End hotel with none of the peace and quiet touring teams usually crave. Immediately on arrival they took themselves off for a run in Hyde Park and this morning they are training at the Honourable Artillery Company Ground in the City of London when the team will be finalised from the 21 who are here. On Sunday the Springboks beat Italy 40-21 in Rome.

England's selection, meanwhile, has created some confusion among those charged with dictating South African tactics, because the absence of Dean Richards, Brian Moore and especially Rob Andrew makes the English attacking pattern far more difficult to predict. "If I must rate the England side now, I think they are more dangerous," Francois Pienaar, the captain, said.