JAMES IN BOK SQUAD

WHEN the Springboks step on to the turf at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, tomorrow afternoon, the rivalry will be just as intense as 1906 - the year they first met.

WHEN the Springboks step on to the turf at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, tomorrow afternoon, the rivalry will be just as intense as 1906 - the year they first met.

Since then 23 Test matches have been played between the two nations, with the Boks losing one game over that 104-year period.

It's a proud record and one the visitors will want to keep intact, but things won't be easy.

The Springboks' preparations were disrupted earlier in the week when midfielder Butch James was forced to withdraw from the game after an objection from Premier Rugby, the controlling body of English club rugby, to his participation.

That ruling has since been overturned by the IRB and James - already with 35 caps to his name - will don the green and gold jersey for the first time in three years as he attempts to reignite his international career.

Lock Andries Bekker has been pulled from the side due to an ankle injury, but coach Peter de Villiers is upbeat ahead of the game.

"Preparations have gone very well. There was disappointment over the withdrawal of Andries but the players have put this behind them and are firmly focused on the Test," De Villiers told Sowetan from Wales yesterday.

"Isn't it great to be able to call on a player like Victor Matfield as a replacement, though."

Fortunately for the Boks, Cardiff has turned on its best weather this week and the side has had some tough training sessions.

"The team has settled very well here. Things are falling nicely into place and the weather for this weekend is good. We have an early kickoff at 2.30pm (3.30pm SA time) which is good for us too," De Villiers said.

The mix of the Bok side is interesting.

Debutants Juan de Jonge, Alistair Hargreaves and Gio Aplon are the future of South African rugby, while Joe van Niekerk, Brendan "BJ" Botha and Christoffel "CJ" van der Linde will be out to prove they still have what it takes at the highest level.

"The mood is very positive and there is a lot of excitement among the new guys and also the guys who will be playing for their country again," De Villiers said.

l The match will be shown live on SuperSport1.

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