After watching Saturday’s dismantling of Wales, I can’t help but feel that this year presents the best chance the Springboks have had in a long time to claim southern hemisphere bragging rights and in doing so, hold the World Cup and Tri-Nations trophies at the same time, writes Murray Staats.
Staats writes in The Daily News that just looking at the Bok bench that included Victor Matfield, Percy Montgomery, C J van der Linde, Ruan Pienaar and Bismarck du Plessis, and with Ryan Kankowski, Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen waiting in the wings, it highlights what incredible depth Springbok rugby has at the moment.
When you compare this to the retirement of Wallaby stalwarts George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Chris Latham who boast more than 320 international caps between them and the exodus All Blacks like Luke McAlister, Carl Hayman, Jerry Collins, Aaron Mauger, Doug Howlett and Chris Jack that will stretch coach Graham Henry’s resources to the limit.
I thought the Springboks put in a relatively well-drilled performance against the northern hemisphere champions, and the only concern for Peter de Villiers would be the set scrums where debutant Brian Mujati struggled at times.
Although it must be said it doesn’t often happen that a Springbok scrum is outweighed by 60kg.
The other debutant, Andries Bekker impressed and now joins his dad Hennie Bekker on the Springbok father and son roll of honour.
Dad, Hennie, who inexplicably only earned two Test caps, was unfortunate to play in the same era as such formidable locks like “man mountain” Louis Moolman, Moaner van Heerden, Kevin de Klerk and Schalk Burger snr.
The towering 2.08m Andries has a similar problem with Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Johann Muller around, but at 24, time is definitely on his side and the smart money is on him passing his dad’s Test cap total.
Butch James took off from where he left off at the World Cup, hardly putting a foot wrong, deservedly earning the man of the match plaudits and on his outside Jean de Villiers was a consistent source of irritation for the Welsh defence.
Former Springbok captains Naas Botha and Gary Teichmann continuously stress the importance of settled combinations and this is where I believe the Tri-Nations will be won or lost. I’d bring back C J van der Linde’s stability and experience as the starting tighthead, return to the Matfield and Botha lock status quo and my loose-forward trio would be Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Ryan Kankowski or Pierre Spies.
On Super 14 form, Enrico Januarie deserved his call-up, but his suspension because of “rowdy” behaviour would have done little to improve his chances of usurping Fourie du Preez, despite the latter’s indifferent form this season.
I’d like to see a centre pairing of Steyn and De Villiers, and Adrian Jacobs used as an impact player with Montgomery, Bryan Habana and Conrad Jantjies completing the back three.
At the end of this month De Villiers and his Springboks will head for Wellington where the Tri-Nations campaign kicks off, followed by the daunting prospect of games in Dunedin and Perth in consecutive weeks.
While the young guns like Kankowski, Bekker, Mujati, Peter Grant and Tonderai Chavhanga all deserve their places in the squad for Down Under, warming up in a change room at Dunedin’s “House of Pain” ahead of a game against the All Blacks, will be a lot less intimidating, surrounded by the calm, experienced presence that the likes of John Smit, Matfield, Burger, James and co can offer.
The All Blacks fielded six new caps in their unconvincing win over Ireland on Saturday, and the time is ripe to capitalise on this inexperience.Tweet