Well done Divvie! Despite the inevitable protestations to the contrary and the monotonous clanging of the doomsayers, you’ve held your nerve and named pretty much exactly the right team to teach the overrated Lions a rugby lesson this weekend.
Looking down the list of names, I see continuity, I see combinations and I see plenty of experience. There are specialists in all the right places and yet there is also enough utility in the squad to ensure maximum flexibility. Any potential weakness at tighthead (which I don’t believe there will be, since Jenkins is a pretty overrated scrummager, while Sheridan seems a bit of a one-trick pony) has been ameliorated by the selection of two props on the bench and while Deon Carstens may not be a full-time tighthead these days, he’s certainly good enough to hold his own, especially with strong scrummagers like Bakkies Botha, Jaun Smith and Danie Rossouw behind him. The starting front row boast an impressive 110 test caps between them – more importantly, they’re a combination that knows each other well from the Sharks. The locks, of course, need no introduction to one another and with 155 test caps between them, Bakkies and Victor Matfield have to be the premier pairing in the world. What’s more, there’s some sort of weird synergy that comes into play when you pick the two of them together; neither seems half as effective without the other!
It’s in the loose forwards, though, that I’m most convinced we’ve got it right, with yet another provincial combination in Hein Brüssow and Juan Smith. The former has been in astounding form all year and capped that off with a superb individual performance against these self-same Lions two weeks ago. Sure, losing Schalk Burger is a massive blow but you just get the feeling that this year is Brüssow’s year and that he’s about to make his mark on the international stage in a huge way. Pierre Spies is also playing some half-decent rugby this year – not sure if anyone’s noticed! The continuity is evident as well, with five from eight the same as in the Boks’ last test against England, going up to seven from eight if you go back just one test further.
The amazing thing about the backline, of course, is that it’s not really amazing at all. It’s the same combination, bar one, that played (or would have played, but for injury) in virtually every test last year. Frans Steyn in for Conrad Jantjes is virtually the only change that has been made, with Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar a combination established on last year’s tour to the Northern Hemisphere. The three-quarter line of de Villers, Jacobs, Pietersen and Habana is the best we could possibly pick and it’s quite frankly an embarrassment of riches to have a player like Jacque Fourie unable to find a spot in the starting lineup! Frans Steyn has his moments, both good and bad, but fullback is arguably the position in which he can do the most good – and dare I say the least damage. He is defensively rock solid with a huge, albeit somewhat erratic boot and his penchant for the counter-attack, as well as an uncanny ability to beat the first defender should lead to some exciting moments, provided he can quickly establish an understanding with his wingers.
The strategy of picking Morné Steyn on the bench is also a masterstroke. I have full faith in Pienaar’s ability to get his kicks over, should he find his rhythm early on. Should it look, though, as thought we’re heading into ’97 territory, the coach simply has to send the Bulls matchwinner on and Bob’s your uncle. All too simple. Now, where is that Earl Rose chap that everyone was getting so lathered up about? Maybe he’s Player 23 this week…
Well done, I say to the Bok selectors and to PDiv in particular. Now let’s klap these Lions.Tweet