Here’s a thought. Five weeks from now Earl Rose could hear is name being read out as a member of the Springbok team to tour Wales, Scotland and England.
Dan Retief writes on SuperRugby that Rose, plus a few others such as Cobus Grobbelaar, Morné Steyn, Rory Kockott, Heinrich Brussow, Keegan Daniel, Rayno Gerber and Werner Kruger, have just four more rounds left of this year’s Currie Cup to convince Peter de Villiers, his fellow coaches and selectors that they deserve a Springbok call-up.
Others such as Wynand Olivier, Wikus van Heerden, Akona Ndungane, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Johann Muller, Ryan Kankowski and Jannie du Plessis will be out to demonstrate why they should permanently return.
There are four more rounds, plus the semi-finals, left of this year’s Currie Cup before the team for the three-test excursion to the UK is finalised and the added incentive of a Springbok cap or a recall should ensure that the old golden cup once again sets the juices flowing – especially as a little bird whispers that there might be interesting developments around the tour.
A three-test excursion would normally require a touring squad of around 26 (a test group of 22 plus additional hookers, scrumhalves and utility forwards) but there is, apparently, a chance that some mid-week fixtures might be arranged against the A sides of the Boks’ opponents.
And one can only hope that this would indeed be the case for it will afford De Villiers, if he survives the despicable storm that has broken around his head, the chance to blood some new faces in a team that showed such wonderful virtues in the record victory over the Wallabies but which nevertheless contains some potential weaknesses that have to be addressed.
Key among these would be the position of flyhalf – which brings me back to my opening statement about that lies ahead of Earl Rose of the Lions, Morné Steyn of the Bulls and Ruan Pienaar of the Sharks.
Flyhalf remains one of the key areas of concern in the make-up of the squad, especially in view of the fact that Butch James, one of the heroes of the World Cup, struggled so to impose himself in the recent tests.
Rose, with his clever touches and illusive movement, is the kind of flyhalf who would fit into De Villiers’ plans for the Boks to play a more fluid game while Steyn, who must surely deserve some credit for the excellent rugby being played by Wynand Olivier, can lay claim to having been the form No10 in this year’s competition.
Pienaar, too, will feature strongly – thanks to that wonderful jinking try against the Wallabies which showed what he is capable of and his pinpoint goal-kicking against for the Sharks against the Bulls; which, notwithstanding the player’s own qualms, presents a compelling blend of talent to the selectors as they consider a successor for James.
In fact, looking ahead to the Currie Cup Finals month of October and the end-of-year tour in November, Pienaar’s experience of test match rugby would give him the inside lane if there were only tests to be played and James, for some or other reason, were to be unavailable.
The coaches would obviously be loath to throw a new cap into a full-scale test, but would jump at the opportunity to give a newcomer the chance to run out in the jersey against lesser opposition, to see how he copes at a higher level.
Tighthead and fetcher flank are two other positions where improvements can be made and some additional midweek matches would be a boon to the Springboks as they look ahead to the three-test series against the British and Irish Lions in June and July next year as they would then tour with a squad of 36 – with many of the additional positions going to new caps.
It seems likely that the touring team will be named over the weekend of the Currie Cup semi-finals (September 11), as the Final will not be until September 25 – so the message to all the “wannabes” must be to play as though an expanded tour has already been announced in the hope that there will be some new caps on offer.
The Springboks’ three tests on tour are against Wales on November 8; Scotland on November 15 and England on November 22.Tweet