Rob Houwing compares the SA Super 14 Dream Team, as voted by you the News 24 user, to the Bok team likely to run out against the Welsh in Bloemfontein.
A flimsy four players! Intriguingly, that’s the only common bond between the South African “Team of the Super 14″ as chosen by Sport24 users and the anticipated Springbok XV Peter de Villiers will start with against Wales in Bloemfontein.
Of course, it needs to be taken into account upfront that the criteria for selection were slightly different: just for one thing, De Villiers looks like placing his faith in at least two “overseas” Boks who did not sniff Super 14 action in 2008 – captain John Smit and Butch James.
Also, our readers’ favoured “Super 14 form-based” line-up includes, in Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger, two well-nigh first-choicers for the Boks who are presently on the crocked list as a result of Super 14 exertions and could not be considered by the rookie coach for his opening international of the winter.
But it remains an illuminating comparison nevertheless – only Jean de Villiers at inside centre, Bryan Habana at left wing, Bakkies Botha in the second row and Gurthro Steenkamp on the loosehead find favour across both XVs.
For the rest it’s a rather bloody, divisive old scrap: where Sport24 users favour Frans Steyn at fullback, De Villiers is said to be fielding Conrad Jantjes; their JP Pietersen at right wing is his Tonderai Chavhanga; they back Waylon Murray at 13 while he’s likely to prefer Adi Jacobs – and so it goes.
Here is a reminder of the sides. Sport24 users’ SA Super 14 selection, with De Villiers’s expected Bok equivalent against Wales in brackets:
15 Frans Steyn (Conrad Jantjes), 14 JP Pietersen (Tonderai Chavhanga), 13 Waylon Murray (Adi Jacobs), 12 Jean de Villiers (same), 11 Bryan Habana (same), 10 Peter Grant (Butch James), 9 Fourie du Preez (Ricky Januarie), 8 Ryan Kankowski (Pierre Spies), 7 Wikus van Heerden (Juan Smith), 6 Schalk Burger (Luke Watson), 5 Johann Muller (Andries Bekker) 4 Bakkies Botha (same), 3 BJ Botha (Brian Mujati), 2 Bismarck du Plessis (John Smit), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp (same).
My first reaction to the Sport24 combo is that we seem to be read by a particularly staunch crop of Sharks supporters – this line-up contains seven players from that franchise. Contrast this with the Bok coach’s anticipated side on Saturday: one Shark, in the contentious shape of Jacobs in midfield! (In fairness, I’m sure a fair few Durbanites still absent-mindedly consider Smit and James as ‘their’ property?)
What I don’t like about the readers’ pick is the presence of both JP Pietersen and Waylon Murray – we all know that neither exactly set Super 14 alight this year and, indeed, got occasional relegation to ‘splinters’ duty from Dick Muir as a result!
Where I’m with them, however, is in their preference to Kankowski at No 8 over Spies; now there’s one Sharks star who DID perform with consistent energy and thrust in the Super 14, earning routine Murray Mexted superlatives, whereas Spies is feeling his way back after a long layoff and may be a tad off 80-minute international sharpness at this stage.
I’m pretty excited myself about De Villiers’s intention, it seems, to match Botha with Bekker in the second row; Sport24 users like a Botha-Johann Muller pairing but I think there’s an over-supply of grunt there – with his basketballer’s height and athleticism I’m keen to see Bekker attempt to wreak havoc with the Welsh ‘own-lineout’ plans.
BJ Botha versus Brian Mujati at tighthead? A very close call: I thought Botha showed a certain ‘bouncebackability’ in the Super 14 after some question marks came his way last year in Bok colours, but Mujati seems to be De Villiers’s man after his Herculean campaign for the Stormers.
That’s fair enough, by my book, even if there will doubtless be a cynical lobby suggesting it’s another case of the new Bok coach wanting to make his maiden ‘players of colour’ cupboard as rosily-stocked as possible in a pressured political climate.
And why not keep certain, often unnecessarily windbaggish parliamentary wolves from the door? All strength to Mujati’s right shoulder, say I, if he cracks the Bloem nod…Tweet