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The nation awaits


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, RWC 2011, Springboks on 23 Aug 2011 at 08:00
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

The South African squad to compete at the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup will be announced in Johannesburg at 19h30 this evening and after a good win over the All Blacks this weekend, the nation has good reason to be upbeat about their prospects in the showcase tournament. The Boks, winners of the trophy in France in 2007, are aiming to be the only side in history ever to successfully defend their World Cup crown.

South African World Cup squads over the years have tended to be marked with some controversy and unexpected selections, be it the surprise inclusion of unknown Robbie Brink at the expense of Tiaan Strauss back in 1995, or the shock axing of captain Gary Teichmann for the 1999 tournament. 2003′s squad included some frankly ridiculous selections, with the likes of Jorrie Muller, Dale Santon and Christo Bezuidenhout hardly “World Cup calibre” players. Jake White’s squad for 2007 was probably the most predictable and least controversial one yet-picked, although the late withdrawal of Pierre Spies, to be replaced by Bismarck du Plessis on the eve of the tournament, did add a little spice.

Most pundits are expecting few shocks this time around and with no fewer than 17 names from the 2007 squad likely to make the cut again in 2011, the benefit of continuity and experience should favour the South Africans. The vast majority of players added since 2007 have established themselves as test regulars in the intervening four years and few could argue that the likes of Beast Mtawarira, Heinrich Brussow, Spies, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard and Juan de Jongh will do anything other than strengthen an already good side.

In fact, about the only thing the Boks are unlikely to have in abundance in this year’s squad is young players, with the Sharks’ Patrick Lambie expected to be the only man in the whole group yet to turn 21. Experience is a boon, as is the wisdom of age, but one feels that the exuberance of youth can also be a real asset at times too and there’s a small part of me that would love to see the Boks take a flyer on really left-field selection, such as picking a Marcell Coetzee or Siya Kolisi out of nowhere to fill the hotly-debated extra loose forward berth.

As for the squad itself, well, the vast majority of it really picks itself, with just a few positions still uncertain. As mentioned, the selectors will need to choose between Jean Deysel and Ashley Johnson for a single loose forward slot, although others, such as Ryan Kankowski, Deon Stegmann and Francois Louw have an outsiode chance of usurping both. With Danie Rossouw providing adequate lock cover, there is room for only one other backup second rower and while Gerhard Mostert appears to be the man in possession, Johann Muller and maybe even Flip van der Merwe could also come into the picture. If included, Muller would be the 18th member of Jake White’s 2007 squad to earn repeat selection four years later.

The backs are largely settled and with the news that both Frans Steyn and Lambie are fit to travel, if picked, tends to shut the door on any outsiders. There’s a spot up for grabs as backup wing to the established pair of Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, but few would put money on anyone other than Lwazi Mvovo grabbing that one. Ruan Pienaar’s ability to play in a number of positions should see him get one of the utility back berths, from where he will cover scrumhalf and flyhalf. His comfort in the latter position should put paid to Elton Jantjies’s selection hopes, while a former stalwarts in the form of Adi Jacobs and Wynand Olivier also look set to miss out, with Juan de Jongh likely to travel as the only specialist midfielder outside the starting pair of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie.

Sharksworld’s likely RWC 2011 squad

Forwards(16): Beast Mtawarira, Gurthro Steenkamp, John Smit (capt), Bismarck du Plessis, Chilliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Gerhard Mostert, Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts, Pierre Spies, Heinrich Brussow, Jean Deysel.

Backs(14): Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Ruan Pienaar, Morne Steyn, Butch James, Patrick Lambie, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo, Francois Steyn, Gio Aplon



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