The feeling of quiet confidence when the Springbok squad for the End of Year Tour was initially announced is fast turning into a feeling of slight concern.
The general feeling since the announcement of the Springboks squad was one of relief. There were little to be aggrieved about and much to look forward to as Peter de Villiers and his selectors managed to put together a squad which was well balanced and selected on current form for the most part.
There was a mix between experience and youth, and even though 13 first choice, or regular squad members were left out due to injuries, it was more a feeling of it being a blessing in disguise given the workload of most of those players, than a feeling of panic.
Given the amount of injuries and/or niggles from the players since then, that feeling of confidence is fast becoming one of concern as we head into the Ireland test, which many believe will be the toughest of all four.
The injury to Schalk Burger, and his Western Province team mates in Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh, will force De Villiers to field untested combinations but even more crucial, hand responsibilities to new caps to fill those voids.
The call-up’s of back up players following the Currie Cup final were also somewhat perplexing. The Boks lost a scrumhalf (Januarie), a loose-forward (Burger), and two centers (De Villiers and De Jongh), yet the players called up as cover were loose-forward (Stegmann) and fullback (Kirchner).
Adi Jacobs was drafted in earlier as a precaution and has now been officially drafted into the squad, but as things stand, he is the only fit center currently in the Springboks squad given that Frans Steyn will not be available for the Ireland test and will more than likely, only join up with the team on Sunday according to reports.
De Villiers’ first problem is his loose-trio combination. In Juan Smith and Spies he has experienced players to call upon, but Burger’s injury has left him with a bit of a headache. Both Stegmann and Keegan Daniel are uncapped and it would be a massive ask to throw them into the deep-end against Ireland.
According to reports Kankowski has been practicing with Spies and Juan, but a loose-trio putting Kankowski on the side of the scrum backfired spectacularly against the Australians on tour in the Tri-Nations earlier this year.
De Villiers’ second problem will be in the centers. It is highly unlikely Jean de Villiers will be fit in time for the Ireland clash this weekend as he is struggling with a groin injury, and given they have lost Juan de Jongh who can cover both 12 and 13, De Villiers needs to identify a player to partner the only other fit centre in the squad, Adi Jacobs.
It makes the call to include Zane Kirchner very perplexing, as De Villiers have Aplon, Pienaar and even Lambie to cover the fullback position and with Steyn returning after the Ireland test, he will have another international fullback available to him.
It is worth noting that although there are not any center candidates that jump out at you, but perhaps more sensible choices as cover for the position could have included Meyer Bosman, a capped Springbok who enjoyed a reasonably good season with the Cheetahs, his partner Robert Ebersohn who although inexperienced, is a very exciting young player, Waylon Murray who seemed to find his form again at the Lions and another capped Springbok, his partner Doppies le Grange who has played consistently good rugby for the Lions for a couple of seasons now, or even Marius Joubert who of course, plays his rugby in Europe currently.
As things stand now, Patrick Lambie probably has the inside lane to wear the number 12 jersey but for a kid that has only shot to prominence this year, mainly as a fullback and flyhalf, it will be a massive risk to have him face off against top international centers like Brian O’Driscoll.
Peter de Villiers and the Springboks’ tour will be defined by the Ireland result, and where most would have been comfortable a week ago, the feeling is changing a bit to one of some concern.Tweet