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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK

South Africa: Champions under fire

The racial make-up of Nick Mallett's squad has come under the microscope

Coach Nick Mallett faces a huge job turning around the fortunes of the defending champions after a terrible summer that left them a distant third in the southern hemisphere pecking order.

But after their historic victory in 1995 - when in unforgettable scenes skipper Francois Pienaar received the cup from the country's president Nelson Mandela - they do go into the tournament as the only side with a 100 per cent record in the finals.

The days, though, of Pienaar and Joel Stransky are long behind the Springboks as they showed in the 1999 Tri Nations.

Surprise slump

From being champions in 1998 they dropped to the bottom of the table this year, winning just one game - at home to Australia.

As a result of this run - a year after the Springboks came within one game of a new world record for successive Test match victories - Mallett sacked his captain Gary Teichmann and even dropped him from the squad.

Discussing the axing of Teichmann, Mallett said: "It was a very difficult decision for the selectors to make but one which was unavoidable.

"He's obviously disappointed but the selectors and I feel this is the way to go if we are to have any chance of winning the World Cup. Gary will always be remembered as one of the great Springbok captains.

"To be the captain, first of all your position in the starting XV must be assured. Looking at our best possible loose forward combination for the World Cup, the selectors and I believe Gary is not assured of his place."

Race row

Even the relationship with political figures has changed. In place of Mandela in 1995, there is a new president Thabo Mbeki, who has called for South African teams to "reflect the demographics of our society".

A quota system was brought in for the domestic Currie Cup games and threats were made to extend the system to the Springbok team to ensure the presence of a percentage of black players.

But on the positive side Teichmann has been replaced as skipper by outstanding scrum half Joost van der Westhuizen and Mallett once again has at his disposal the formidable back rower Bobby Skinstad, who he is hoping will lead his team back to the top of world rugby.

World Cup squad:

Backs: Joost van der Westhuizen (capt), Percy Montgomery, Breyton Paulse, Pieter Rossouw, Stefan Terblanche, Pieter Muller, Robbie Fleck, Wayne Julies, Kaya Malotana, Henry Honiball, Jannie de Beerand Werner Swanepoel, Deon Kayser, Brendan Venter.

Forwards: Os du Randt, Ollie le Roux, Adrian Garvey, Cobus Visagie, Chris Rossouw, Naka Drotske, Bobby Skinstad, Anton Leonard, Johan Erasmus, Andre Venter, Andre Vos, Ruben Kruger, Krynauw Otto, Mark Andrews, Selborne Boome, Albert van den Berg,

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