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Where to from here?

Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 15 Oct 2013 at 10:57
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Springboks have had one of their more successful seasons to date, having only lost twice to the All Blacks while beating Australia home and away, and keeping a clean record against Argentina in the Rugby Championship. That’s all great but what do we want to see from the Boks next?

Having lost only 2 of the last 12 matches, the Springboks are on an upward curve in terms of their results, but is it only the results that matter? Would you like to see something extra from the Springboks when they take on Wales, Scotland and France on the End of year tour?

As we saw during this tour last year, coach Heyneke Meyer is not the greatest fan of leaving all his stars at home, but it would be interesting to see whether the overseas players who have had such an impact lately will be available to play. And should they be available for the tour, which I would expect them to be, should Meyer select them at all?

The End of year tour is always touted as a tour to try things out, give the regular players a bit of a rest after a long year of Super Rugby and Internationals and give some in-form youngsters a go at the next level. This might sound like a bad idea in terms of selling out the coveted Springbok jersey, but who cares if we hand out a few caps in return for having our top players stick around injury free for a while longer.

For arguments sake, let’s say Meyer opts against selecting his overseas players, opting rather to reward the guys who actually play in South Africa. That would firstly, open up quite a few spaces in the current team, and secondly, we should have quite a bun fight to fill those spaces, based on the form of the year so far.

Starting amongst the forwards, we are then likely to be without Juandre Kruger and Francois Louw. Not such a big void to fill, it is only two players after all, but considering the form Louw is in currently, it would be near impossible to select a player close to his ability from the players left in South Africa. As for Kruger, I have never been a great fan and I think we have ample talent to cover for him, whether we go for the experienced Franco van der Merwe or opt to blood young Pieter-Steph du Toit, either candidate would be sufficient. As for a replacement for Louw, I would personally opt for either Siya Kolisi or Marcell van der Merwe to take his spot, while there might be merit in handing Deon Fourie a shot at it just to prove himself, but I have never been a fan of a dual player (read half hooker half flanker).

It is amongst the backs that we have a slightly bigger concern. At scrumhalf, we would be without the services of both scrumhalves used during the Rugby Championship, Ruan Pienaar and Fourie du Preez. While Piet van Zyl is still around, my mind tells me that not even being able to start for his home union says something about the player. While I like his style of play, for the Cheetahs, I am not as confident in handing him the starting spot for the Boks. Looking at who is left within South Africa, there could be arguments to allow Sarel Pretorius to run things for the tour, but his style clashes with the weather up North. Unfortunately, I do not have an answer for this position, and will leave that to you to debate in the comments below.

Moving onto flyhalf, another position I am sure will see a lot of debate. Morne Steyn will not be available, according to the rules set by myself above, and leaves us with quite a void to fill. Not only a void in the most pivotal position, but also a void in a reliable kicker. I hear you screaming for Pat Lambie to get the nod, but can we really entrust him with the kicking duties as well? Yes he plays a great attacking game and is proficient in the wet, but I am not sold on the idea of handing Lambie the reigns just like that, without having had a properly successful season. Again, I do not know the answer here, and will leave it to you to debate it. My personal choice for flyhalf would be to give Demetri Catrakilis a run, simply as he has had an immense season to date and is actually a 75% kicker, amongst other things. There will be calls for Johan Goosen to start again, since he is back from his injury, but I would wait until he has played more than 15 minutes of rugby before I make that call.

As far as the outside backs go, we would be without both Bryan Habana and Zane Kirchner. While Habana is quite a loss, Kirchner is not. Habana’s replacement would simply be Bjorn Basson, I mean come now, it is Heyneke Meyer after all. As for fullback, who knows? There might be a shift to the last line of defence for Willie le Roux, and I would not be too sad about that. If not though, there is a host of players that can step up, none with any significant amount of experience though. The elephant in the room might be Frans Steyn, having hardly played any rugby at all this year, it might be worth sending him to Europe to get some confidence back, but he might just enjoy the French cuisine a tad too much…

Jokes aside, I am excited about the next 12 months in Springbok rugby. This end of year tour should see the Springboks try again to start an unbeaten run, and while the results are important, I would love to see even the slightest change in plan from the coaching staff. Given how this team has grown in the last year, I am looking forward to see their growth into 2014, building towards what should be a very interesting 2015 World Cup.


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