Ten years ago Bok supporters were celebrating that their kicker had sent their team into the 1999 Rugby World Cup semi-finals. A week later Bok supporters were in mourning as an intelligent Australian team kept Jannie’s boot out the game and took the trophy that should have been the Boks, had we played the right flyhalf for the game.
Like Morne Steyn, Jannie de Beer entered his name into the record books with his record number of drop goals against England. Mallett went into the Australian game expecting Jannie to win it again, he left the Bok’s top fly half at the time on the bench. That decision, amongst others, ended Mallett’s reign, and tarnished a great record he created as Bok coach.
A decade later Pieter de Villiers is in the same position, he is on the brink of a rare achievement and his decision this week could be the deciding factor on whether the Boks hold up their third tri-nations trophy or throw away another chance. De Villiers is in the enviable position of having two top class fly-halves to pick on Saturday. The question is does he do a Mallett or does he do a White?
Morne Steyn was excellent on Saturday and deserves all the credit and accolades he is receiving, but the Boks mustn’t let the celebrations cloud them from the facts. South Africa only took the game away from the All Blacks due to the rain. In fact South Africa were just clinging on after 30 minutes of play. As the rain started to fall the Boks were 13-9 down and it was only the All Blacks refusal to change their running game plan to a conservative one, that made it easy for the Boks to pick them off.
De Villiers doesn’t need to look too far in history to see the the dangers the Australian’s pose. The Sharks beat the Blues playing a very similar game to the Boks and a week later they lost to the bottom of the log Reds. And in last year’s tri-nations the Boks made history by beating the All-Blacks at home only to come short a week later against a “weaker” Wallaby team.
Before the Bok team is selected for Saturday, De Villiers is going to need to take some factors into account. Firstly the weather. The Wallabies love a conservative Bok team in dry conditions. Secondly fatigue, our forward pack are on their third tough game in a row against a fresh Wallaby pack. Who handles back foot ball better? Matt Giteau will unlikely make as many handling errors as Stephen Donald did and runs a lot more at the oppositions flyhalf channel, as does Stirling Mortlock. And finally the Wallaby back row won’t be as poor as the All Black loose forwards were.
Simply De Villiers has a head-ache this week, and it will probably be in his best interests to delay his squad until the last minute. The simple suggestion would be, Steyn for Rain, Ruan to Run.Tweet