Today Peter de Villiers will name a Springbok squad that will start preparations for the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions and the burning question is: ‘How Bullish will De Villiers be?’
Following their 61-17 demolition of the Chiefs in the Super 14 Final at the weekend, few pundits would argue that a number of “new” Boks could come from the Bulls’ kraal.
The questions is just: ‘How many?’
The Bok coach already gave some hints as to his thinking when he named the training squad for the “practice match” against Namibia last Friday.
We all know that he is considering Earl Rose as a utility back, having tried him at fullback in Windhoek and then having moved him to flyhalf in the second half. De Villiers is adamant the enigmatic and erratic Golden Lions player, Rose, is a special star.
But can you still name anybody ahead of Bulls No.15 Zane Kirchner?
That is the first puzzle that may well be solved by Monday.
We know who the wings will be – Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen to start, with Jongi Nokwe and one of the Ndungane twins as back-up. But will it be Akona or Odwa?
We also know who De Villiers’ favourite centres are – Jean de Cilliers, Adi Jacobs and Jaque Fourie. But is there a place for the form centre in South Africa, Wynand Olivier?
And what do you do with Francois Steyn, another enigma in South African rugby. Steyn, an unquestionable talent, is also prone to some serious ‘brain explosions’. Do you select him as a utility on the bench and bring him on as an impact player, or is he destined for a fullback spot? He does, of course, have an injury cloud hanging over him.
Flyhalf is the other big poser in De Villiers’ squad. Ruan Pienaar is the Bok coach’s first choice. But can you still keep Morné Steyn out? And is Francois Steyn or Earl Rose perhaps a dark horse here?
Scrumhalf is a no-brainer – Fourie du Preez will start and Ricky January remains high on De Villiers’ shortlist … for obvious reasons. It is difficult to see Jano Vermaak making the final cut, despite his talent and good form.
No.8 is also not in doubt. Pierre Spies will start and Ryan Kankowski will be on the bench. The rest is a distant third in the queue.
The flanks also select themselves. De Villiers, despite his lack of form this year, will stay true to Schalk Burger and Juan Smith will also be there. Heinrich Brüssow has secured himself a spot on the bench – with Jean Deysel and Dewald Potgieter possibilities in an enlarged squad.
The locks also select themselves – Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha to start, with Andries Bekker on the bench.
The extra spot for an enlarged squad could go to a utility like Danie Rossouw, who can also cover all three loose forward positions. Johann Muller and Steven Sykes are the fringe players.
The front row is also, pretty much, a done deal.
John Smit will captain the team from tighthead, Bismarck du Plessis will start at hooker and Tendai Mtawarira has stolen the march on the other loosehead props. The bench will have Gürthro Steenkamp and Deon Carstens on it, with Smit covering as the extra hooker.
Of the bolters and newcomers in the group that played against Namibia last Friday, not too many are likely to get a look in.
We know Rose is likely to be there, given the Bok coach’s public declarations in his favour.
Players like Jean Deysel, Steven Sykes, Wian du Preez and Jano Vermaak are fringe players at best.
Morgan Newman is unlikely to feature, given the quality of midfielders at De Villiers’s disposal.
So what could De Villiers’s squad look like?
We will name a 30-man training squad!
Springbok squad – possible: Andries Bekker, Bakkies Botha, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Deon Carstens, Jean de Villiers, Bismarck Du Plessis, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Adi Jacobs, Ricky Januarie, Ryan Kankowski, Zane Kirchner, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Akona Ndungane, Odwa Ndungane, Jongi Nokwe, Wynand Olivier, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Earl Rose, Danie Rossouw, John Smit (captain), Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Francois Steyn, Morné Steyn, Gurthrö Steenkamp.
By Jan de Koning of Rugby 365Tweet