Having had almost two days for the Bok selection for the Wales test to sink in, I must admit that I’m still scratching my head about it, to a large extent. While it’s not really a bad team per se, there just doesn’t seem to be any real common thread to many of the choices.
We’ve heard various theories in the build-up to the announcement, mostly along the lines of how the Bulls and Stormers player wouldn’t feature, assuming they made the Super 14 play-offs. We’ve also heard that the test match against Wales would be used as an opportunity to assess some of our foreign-based talent. While Peter de Villiers certainly has seen fit to include a whopping 6 overseas-based players, we also see a good number of players in the team who will be somewhat knackered after playing in the Super 14 final a week before.
There are some good picks, though – let’s not take that away from the coach. Francois Louw has been superb all season and certainly deserves a test start, although I’m not sure why he’s playing at open-side flank when he’s operated (with distinction) on the other side of the scrum all season. Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh are two other players who have been consistent performers in an exciting Stormers backline and it’s good to see that form rewarded. Jannie du Plessis and particularly Alistair Hargreaves have also been in fine form for the Sharks over the last few weeks and it will be interesting to see the latter, in particular, in the test arena.
There are a few calls that I simply can’t fathom, though. Why is Joe van Niekerk there? To my mind, it really doesn’t matter how well he’s playing for Toulon, because we have more than enough quality loose forwards plying their trade in the Super 14. Duane Vermuelen, for instance, is a far more sensible pick for the future (Willem Alberts would be as well, but he’s injured) and I also can’t really see the logic in picking Ryan Kankowski on the bench. The same argument applies to Butch James’s selection at inside centre. James is not a 12 and is also on his last legs (quite literally) so what the Boks have to gain from playing him there mystifies me to an extent.
To my mind, if you’re going to make an unorthodox selection, it should always be to learn something, or to achieve a particular purpose. I fail to see what we learn in picking James out of position at this stage of his career.
My only other gripe is at loosehead prop, where CJ van der Linde is is picked out-of-position ahead of the in-form Beast Mtawarira. I find myself wondering if Beast’s eligibility problems might not be ongoing, in which case it may be a while before we see him in the green and gold again.Tweet