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Highs and lows of the Bok squad

Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :End of Year Tour, Original Content, Springboks on 29 Oct 2013 at 09:37
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A 32 man Springbok squad has been announced to tour Wales, Scotland and France during November, with a fair few surprises in the mix. Here are my personal high and low-lites.

Firstly, congratulations to all the players, especially those that have been called up for the first time. Yes we debate certain inclusions, but it is important to remember that it is a dream come true for all these guys, and it is not they that select themselves, but a higher power. Let’s rather question the higher power than attack the individuals.

Let’s start off with some positives:

On the inclusion side of things, I am happy to see the return of Jaque Fourie and JP Pietersen. Pietersen remains one of the best wings in South Africa, and he is back for Super Rugby next year, so he can easily be seen as a half local, for those that are so against the European selections. As for Jaque Fourie, I am a big fan of the former World’s Greatest Center, and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do. It is an End of year Tour after all, so trying it and seeing what he has to offer cannot be the worst thing in the world. He was superb in all areas before going overseas, and having only played on average 25 games a year for the last two years, we are sure to see a fit and healthy player.

Scarra Ntubeni’s inclusion is a reflection of a form selection, and that should be a positive for any player out there trying to make the Springbok squad. Play good, consistent rugby and you will be rewarded. Heyneke Meyer could have gone for Chiliboy Ralepelle, but instead chose a local player who has made a name for himself here, and I hope we see more such selections. The same can be said for Louis Schreuder, it could have been easy for Meyer to select Jano Vermaak, but instead he went for a local scrumhalf. Was it the right local scrumhalf, that we can debate until we are blue in the face, but a local player it is. The same can be said about Gio Aplon, who has player consistently good rugby for some time now, and gets the reward over an out of form Bjorn Basson.

Speaking of Basson, his exclusion is something of a positive for me. Meyer, again, could have easily taken him along for another tour, but instead chose to send a message to the player, and went for the form Aplon instead. This type of exclusion, of a Bulls player as well, is a step in the right direction for Meyer, who is finally looking like he is picking form over reputation.

I am very happy for Pieter-Steph du Toit, one feels like he has been there a few times before, yet he is still uncapped, and I cannot wait to see him take the field in his first match. Not only from a Sharks supporter point of view, but generally, he is such a great talent, and will go on to star in many a Springbok match.

There are other positives, but if I had to discuss every player in detail, I would be writing a book. Let’s look at some of the negative inclusions or exclusions:

The inclusion of Bakkies Botha has me stumped. Not a dumbfounded stumped, but a confused stumped. I am not sure whether this is a masterstroke or a massive fail. Bakkies has been playing good rugby, and has been playing in the European setup for a few years now, so that type of experience and knowledge is great to have in the setup. There is a big but though – does this inclusion mean that Meyer is looking at Bakkies to be at the next World Cup? He hasn’t been part of the plans for two seasons now, and is suddenly back in the mix. Is this purely because the likes of Flip van der Merwe and Juandre Kruger have failed to kick on from where Bakkies and Victor Matfield left off. I will only make up my mind on this inclusion once I see the amount of rugby Bakkies will play on this tour. I would love for him to mentor Pieter-Steph du Toit in an even better player, but would hate it if du Toit was to miss out on any game time as a result.

I do not want to be too negative towards the players in the squad, as we are not sure if they are even going to get game time, so I will keep those opinions to myself. The rest of my negativity goes towards certain exclusions. The first and most glaring one is that of Frans Steyn. Steyn may not have player a whole lot of rugby in the last few months, but what we saw of him in the final, showed class, maturity and that little spark that the Springbok midfield needs. He has player the same amount of rugby as Johan Goosen has, yet Goosen has made the cut. One has to wonder what the thinking is behind taking a half fit Goosen over a player that is certainly one of the most talented flyahlves in the country. No I am not referring to Frans Steyn anymore, I am referring to Demetri Catrakilis.

I am not sure what else this guy has to do to be noticed. He had a brilliant Currie Cup season last year, stood out in a battling Kings outfit during Super Rugby and again had a great influence towards the latter half of the Currie Cup. These two exclusions have left a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. Deon Fourie can count himself a little unlucky, but it is rather difficult to find a space for him, considering the loose forwards already in the squad.

That is my little rant over, I hope you made it through this rather lengthy piece. Tell me which one selection has you fuming, and which selection you like most.


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