Let’s just turn our attention away from the Currie Cup Final for just a second and spend a little time discussing the all-important Bok tour squad announcement that will follow. Who will be there? Who won’t? What will the surprise “left-field” selection be? We know there’s always at least one…
The selectors have pretty much quashed all of our fun and ended a fair deal of speculation by announcing that most of the Bok Tri-Nations group will be selected again. This would, I imagine, leave the door only slightly ajar to any uncapped players, hoping to force their way in through good Currie Cup form. One or two of the established Boks have done very little to further their own reputations, though and could consider themselves lucky to earn a tour spot at this stage.
If I were picking the squad (of 30), this is how it would look right now.
Beast Mtawarira is a must as first-choice loosehead. Jannie du Plessis and Brian Mujati are also pretty certain to tour as the tightheads, leaving one spot open, which will come down to a choice between Gurthrö Steenkamp and Heinke van der Merwe. I would take the Lions man along as my backup loosehead prop, as he’s had yet another superb season as anchor of a very strong pack. Players unlucky to miss out include Ross Geldenhuys and a rejuvenated Deon Carstens.
John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis pick themselves, leaving just the third hooking berth up for grabs. Adriaan Strauss is the man in possession, with Schalk Brits having fallen way back in the pecking order. Given his talent and potential, though, my pick for the third spot would be Chilliboy Rallepelle, to take an opportunity to re-integrate him into the Bok setup with a view to him challenging du Plessis strongly once Smit retires in 2009. Willie Wepener is unlucky here, because he has been the form hooker in the Currie Cup, bar none.
Four spots up for grabs here and you can bet your life that Victor Matfield and Andries Bekker will occupy two of them. I’m not sure if Bakkies Botha will be fit to tour but if that is indeed the case, then he’s a shoe-in for the squad, even half-fit. To my mind, Johann Muller has done enough this Currie Cup to warrant inclusion. If Botha should fall out of the tour party, then Danie Rossouw should probably get the fourth lock berth. Outside of those candidates, there’s not really too much to choose from, unless you plan to gamble on a youngster like the Bulls’ Juandre Kruger or Steven Sykes of the Sharks. Albert van den Berg has retired from international rugby.
There’s only really one spot up for grabs here, assuming five loose forwards in the squad. Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Ryan Kankowski must surely be the first-choice players, with Pierre Spies also certain to get the nod after his heroics in the final Tri-Nations game. Legitimate contenders here would have to include Baywatch Grobbelaar, Heinrich Brüssow, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes and even Deon Stegmann. Sharks man Deysel gets the nod in my book, due to his good form and ability to do a job anywhere in the back row. Joining the “unlucky” list here is Keegan Daniel, who has had an absolutely sublime Currie Cup and offers unmatched value as an impact replacement.
Ricky Januarie, Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar. All three are self-selecting. Rory Kockott and Janno Vermaak have both fallen way back in the pecking order after uninspiring Currie Cup campaigns. Bolla Conradie is just too old and slow now.
There really aren’t any strong contenders here – even Peter Grant has looked average when put under real pressure. That said, I would pick the Province man as backup flyhalf, with Butch James the only legitimate option as a starting Bok flyhalf in Northern hemisphere conditions. Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn provide adequate cover within the squad.
Jean de Villiers and Adrian Jacobs are the men in possession at the moment, while Frans Steyn and Jacque Fourie are also must-haves in the squad. It’s bad news for Wynand Olivier, who probably deserves another look-in after a good Currie Cup, but four centres are more than enough.
Five spots left, for the wing-cum-fullback brigade and plenty of guys putting up their hands. Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Conrad Jantjes really have to be there, leaving only two spots up for grabs. Jongi Nokwe and Tonderai Chavanga go head-to-head for the paceman berth and the Free Stater is clearly ahead on current form. The last spot has to go to a player who can do a job in the last line, if required. The temptation to pick Stefan Terblanche is strong but given his age, I would go with the ever-dependable Odwa Ndungane as the 30th member of the squad.
So what do you guys think? Do I have it spot-on, or would you pick a radically different squad?Tweet