Peter de Villiers has no option, Peter Grant is a must for the Grand Slam Tour.
The Springboks sit with a bit of a flyhalf crisis, which is nothing new if you consider most believe our last ‘great’ flyhalf was Henry Honniball!
This November, straight after the Currie Cup final the Springboks will embark on a Grand Slam tour, playing all four home unions in an attempt to add this accolade to their impressive CV of the last 4 years. It is something the Springboks last achieved in 1960/61 when Avril Malan’s team beat all four home unions in a four-month, 34-game sweep through Europe.
But the Springboks are in a bit of a catch-22. As much as they would love to end a 50-year drought, there is a small matter of a Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next year which in the professional era, is what rugby now revolves around.
We have read at great lengths how the conditioning of players is going to be vital for any hope of success at the World Cup, and given the amount of rugby some of the key members of the Springboks squad has played so far, taking these players on a Grand Slam tour is a luxury De Villiers can simply not afford.
One of these players, is Morne Steyn.
Steyn was instrumental in the Springboks success of 2009 and with a kicking average of close on 90% in 2010, he will be absolutely crucial for the Springbok cause in 2011 and the Rugby World Cup. But Steyn, as with many other front-line Springboks is in desperate need of rest.
The situation is further complicated for De Villiers with his second choice flyhalf for 2010 and Rugby World Cup winner of 2007, Butch James, being ruled out with a shoulder injury.
The Bok coach could obviously also fall back on another player he has used at flyhalf in Ruan Pienaar, but given how his performances in blew hot, but mostly cold, and the player’s seeming insistence of wanting to play scrumhalf exclusively, this is also not an option.
A more desperate measure might even have been to call on Saracens’ Derrick Hougaard, but he too has been struck down by an Achilles injury and won’t be available.
This leaves De Villiers with the option to either take a massive risk, and call on uncapped inexperienced youngsters in Patrick Lambie or Elton Jantjies who both still need to play Super rugby in this position, or perhaps go for the more conservative option and call upon Peter Grant, who has formed part of his squad in the past but who also has limited experience at test level.
There is no doubt Jantjies and Lambie were some of the finds of the year, but to expect them to perform on a 4-match tour in Europe (5 if we include the Barbarians game) in a Grand Slam attempt, will be desperately unfair.
This does not mean either of them can be blooded on this tour and give De Villiers great options and back-up for 2011, but the responsibility as first choice flyhalf has a better chance of backfiring spectacularly than being successful, especially if we consider they will be up against players and conditions unfamiliar to them.
Peter Grant might not be the ideal option to many, including the Springbok coach, but in the very least you have a flyhalf with a massive amount of Super rugby experience and even some test rugby experience, a player not scared to take on the advantage line (something Peter de Villiers apparently prefers) and a player who comes with the added security as a very efficient goal-kicker.
Grant is currently playing his rugby in Japan which counts heavily against his possible selection, but he was a key member of the Stormers squad earlier this year in a team that reached the finals of the competition, and he will be back for the Cape franchise in 2011 again.
With his preferred 3 options at flyhalf of the last 2 years unavailable either through injury, preference or needing some time off, Grant is the only logical solution with either Jantjies, or Lambie taken as a back-up with the intent of some Northern exposure.Tweet