Looking at the disaster that the Bok tour has been so far, it’s pretty tough to find any positives. With almost half of the squad having now been sent home, let’s have a critical look at the midweek Boks and see if we have actually made any progress at all.
When it comes to the front row, if anything, I guess we’ve learned that there is a lot more work to do before we can claim to be real exponents of the art of scrumming, as Stephen Jones so eloquently pointed out yesterday. Certainly Gurthrö Steenkamp and Jannie du Plessis, both senior players, were shown up badly against Leicester, while Wian du Preez and CJ van der Linde hardly did better against Saracens. Heinke van der Merwe, the poor sod, was on a hiding to nothing right from the start and I’m not really sure what we were expecting to achieve by taking a player who’s been out injured for 6 months and then playing him out of position. Being somewhat lenient on du Preez – I’ll argue that he was probably unable to do very much in a scrum with no stability whatsoever at tighthead – he is probably the only one of the lot who still has a future at this level, although van der Merwe will hopefully be back to his destructive best once he gets some gametime under his belt. Steenkamp and du Plessis need to take a long hard look at themselves, though and decide whether they still have the appetite for Bok rugby. Maybe they’re both just tired? As for van der Linde, well, I’ve always thought he was useless as a scrummager and nothing I’ve seen on this tour has convinced me otherwise.
Chilliboy Ralepelle only played for about 30 seconds in total and we all knew that he wasn’t fit enough to tour in the first place. I’ve said it before – let the poor bastard actually get fit and in form again playing in a lower-level competition. THEN pick him for the Boks, if he’s good enough. Bandise Maku looked out of his depth and still has a way to go, whilst Adriaan Strauss only served to underline his quality.
In the second row, the big disappointment has been Danie Rossouw, with both of the other locks, Andries Bekker and Alistair Hargreaves, making some reasonable strides in the midweek team. Bekker, in particular, has probably been the most improved forward on tour so far. Steven Sykes still should have been in the mix, though and has to be given more opportunities in 2010. Rossouw will solder on, but since he’s the same age as Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, we’re going to have to look further than him as our next-best lock.
Dewald Potgieter and Jean Deysel have both been impressive – the latter, in fact, more like superb and it looks like both will win test caps this weekend. The other two midweek loose forwards, Davon Raubenheimer and Ashley Johnson have been poor, with Johnson showing that he is possibly too one-dimensional to really be the answer at number 8. The Griquas man, plucked from obscurity to join the tour, should probably return thither… Shades of Theo Oosthuizen all over again, I’m afraid.
Heine Adams didn’t play particularly well against Leicester, but was superb against Saracens, while his teammate Francois Hougaard was about the opposite. I’m not quite sure exactly what role Hougaard is meant to be playing now that he’s been asked to stay behind with the Test squad but if he’s the reserve scrumhalf, based on Tuesday’s performance, we’re in big trouble. Adams, despite his age counting against him, is definitely worth another look, though. Ruan Pienaar doesn’t want to be a flyhalf anymore and it’s doubtful that he’ll change his mind about that again. The mercurial playmaker will be back at scrumhalf for the Sharks in next year’s Super 14 and my feeling is that the number 20 jersey in the Bok squad is the one best suited to him. If anything, this tour may just have driven the final nail into the Pienaar-as-a-flyhalf coffin and although I still feel he is a superb option in that position, there’s no point in persisting with the switch if the player himself has lost faith. So back to the drawing board when it comes to a flyhalf, but I guess at least we can start to put together a more sensible pecking-order when it comes to scrumhalf.
Wynand Olivier did nothing to impress me, but you get the feeling that, when it comes to most of the rugby scribes out there, the only thing that Olivier really has to do to make the test team is to not be Adi Jacobs. He remains a devastating provincial rugby player but his lack of vision and imagination will always be his undoing at national level. His partner, Juan de Jongh, however, showed some real touches of class and I’m looking forward to see him play in the Super 14 – that’s if he can manage to get any gametime now that Mossie Fourie is ahead of him at the Stormers. Meyer Bosman had virtually no opportunities to impress, but failed quite spectacularly to do anything whatsoever anyway. I hope he enjoyed the shopping. Let’s please not pick this guy again? He offers nothing.
In the back three, Earl Rose and Jongi Nokwe were the only ones to emerge with any credit, with Nokwe’s pace again really shining through as the must-have accessory for any top winger. Poor old Odwa looked more and more like he just isn’t quick enough anymore and he’s surely now got to be looked at as a fullback option for the Boks – given how kak Zane Kirchner is! Riaan Viljoen was in the same boat as Bosman. Had very little to do, but failed to take advantage of the opportunities that he did have and looked, frankly, out of his depth even at this level.Tweet