It was with much fear and trepidation that this brave reporter set out on the far-too-long train journey that would eventually take me to Wembley Stadium. My fears turned out to be well-founded, as the Bok midweek side suffered yet another defeat to club opposition last night.
There were a number of late changes made to the side, none of which made too much sense to me. I would imagine that Wian du Preez and Danie Rossouw were pulled out of the starting lineup to keep them fresh for the test match this weekend, but their replacements really struggled to make any impact. Heinke van der Merwe started out well enough at loosehead, but when CJ van der Linde was forced to hobble off barely 20 minutes into the game, we very quickly learned that the Lions strongman is certainly no international quality tighthead – at least, not yet. Perhaps he should have been tried in this new position at Currie Cup level first? Just a thought, guys.
As for Alistair Hargreaves, well, it just defies all logic that he was selected for this tour ahead of Steven Sykes and when picked to do an “enforcer” job, he completely disappeared. Hargreaves and Andries Bekker are just not the sort of combination you can pick together and coupled with the front-row weakness, the Bok pack was pretty much on a hiding to nothing all the way through. Sarries’ ultimate victory, from where I was sitting anyway, was built on a platform of total scrum dominance and it all started with a rookie tighthead and pair of lightweight locks on the Bok side.
In the backs, it was again the Jongi Nokwe and Juan de Jongh show, with both players showing that they have what it takes to make the step up. Ruan Pienaar’s nightmare season continued and the Bok XV may well have won this game had somebody else been doing the goalkicking. In all-round play, Pienaar was certainly no worse behind a well-beaten pack than Morne Steyn was last weekend, but unless he can improve his posts percentage, he’s just never going to unseat the boring Bull from the test side. Wynand Olivier has yet to convince me that he’s anything more than a decent Super 14 player and was made to look rather silly on the night by Brad Barritt, who enjoyed a superb game for Saracens. If only bloody Derick Hougaard had given a little more ball to the exciting Sarries backline, perhaps the win could have been even more convincing for them.
The standout player for the Bok XV, as we probably could have predicted before the game, was none other than our very own Jean Deysel and it will be an absolute travesty and a sham if the burly flanker isn’t rewarded with a spot in the test team for the next two games. Should Schalk Burger be forced out with a rib injury, as now looks likely, Deysel must surely be the man to step into the breach. Not sure why he and Dewald Potgieter swapped jerseys before the game, but Wolla plays his own game regardless of what number he has on his back and is always good value for money.
Latest injury news is that Andries Bekker and CJ van der Linde are both crocked, leaving the Boks frighteningly short of decent forwards with two tests still to play. Bismarck du Plessis, like Burger, is seriously in doubt for Saturday’s encounter but without van der Linde to provide tighthead cover, it looks like John Smit will be forced to soldier on in the number 3 jersey, with only van der Merwe to provide cover off the bench (shudder). Adriaan Strauss will start at hooker, with Bandise Maku coming into the squad, while Danie Rossouw will now have to cover lock. Assuming no Burger, both Deysel and Potgieter will presumably need to stay on, with one starting and the other occupying the number 19 jersey.
The Bok team will be announced tomorrow.Tweet