I haven’t written an article on Sharksworld in a while. We have so many great authors making an input, I felt like my contribution would be excess. I have noticed that not one of these great authors has discussed the Springbok squad in detail yet, and I would really like to see everyone’s opinion on who they think would be the best 15 guys to run out against Ireland on Saturday. So let’s start this off by discussing the players available to us for selection.
Frans Steyn will only be available from next week so the guys we have left are Gio Aplon and Zane Kirchner. They both have played fullback for the Boks in recent times and have both done a decent job of it. Aplon is probably the more exciting player, but maybe in the weather we’re expecting for this game, the man so lovingly called Krusty by Sharkworlders might just be the better option. We could also look at Ruan Pienaar as an option at fullback; he played in this position during the 2009 Tri nations and many of his appearances for the Boks has been in this position. Unfortunately the fact that he is one of only two scrumhalfs in the squad would make this selection a little risky. I also don’t like the idea of selecting players out of position unless you absolutely have no other choice. That’s why I will only briefly mention that Morne Steyn has played some of his rugby at fullback and would also not be a horrible selection at the back. He’s save just like Kirchner, is a better tactical kicker than Zane and a brilliant goal kicker. It would also have the added bonus of opening up the fly half position to one of the exciting players we have available to us.
The question here is will you go for form, or reputation. Bryan Habana is still not back to the player we know he can be. He has shown glimpses in a few games for Province, but let’s be honest the two form wings in South Africa at the moment is Bjorn Basson and Lwazi Mvovo. Gio Aplon could also be an option if you don’t use him at the back. I think at the end of the day it will come down to combinations. Bryan Habana is probably not a bad option, since putting together a back three with only a few caps between them could be disastrous. I would really like to see Mvovo get his first cap this weekend, he’s a strong runner and a game breaker, if the ball goes out wide Mvovo needs very little room to make something happen. I also like that he’s strong on his feet and stays upright in the tackle, which means he hardly ever loses possession in the tackle and his team can swing the ball out wide knowing he won’t get isolated. Basson is a great player, but I feel like he’s more of an opportunist, scoring tries from intercepts, mistakes from opposition, chip kicks into unpatrolled areas and in general very much bounce of the ball kind of stuff and I don’t think Ireland will give him a chance to exploit them in that way, but that’s just my opinion and I hope he proofs me wrong if he does get selected.
After Andries Struass destroyed the entire WP midfield, (I have a feeling he may have something to do with Jaque Fourie being sidelined as well) we are left with only a few options in this area. The selection of Adi Jacobs to cover this area has been criticized, but I personally think when four of the other guys that have a few Sringbok caps in this position are not available, it’s probably best to bring in at least one guy that has proven himself at this level before. There is no reason why Adi can’t step in at 13 and deliver a great stalwart performance for the Boks. Putting two newbies together in the midfield, now that would have been crazy! The question is, who you use on his inside, or for that matter outside if that is what is required. Frans Steyn, again, could have been the solution had he been available; I think he’s kicking himself for not insuring that he is, but alas only next week when Jean De Villiers may be over his injury will Steyn be available. The guys that have played in the midfield before is Patrick Lambie, doing a stellar job of it when he did, Bryan Habana at outside center only, I think, and Morne Steyn. In my mind the best option would be either of Lambie or Morne, the inside center position has very much become an extension of the fly half position in modern rugby anyway and thus these two guys should be able to do the job for us here. You could also think out of the box and play either Keegan Daniel or Ryan Kankowski at 12, it would be a very interesting experiment, but I don’t think the International stage and the Grand Slam tour is the place to do it.
Morne Steyn is the obvious option. He has been very stable for us here over the last season or so and has improved and gained a lot of confidence with every game he’s played. Having said that, I believe Elton Jantjies and Patrick Lambie has been the finds of this Currie Cup season and is the future of South African rugby. Lambie has shown immense maturity and this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to see how he goes against top international opposition. Ruan Pienaar can also play here, but that ship has sailed, hit an ice berg and sunken to the bottom of the ocean. Anyway, we only have two scrummies, as I said before and Ruan needs to cover this position.
It’s between Ruan and Hougaard and it’s really hard to say, because I haven’t seen Ruan play any rugby this season aside from the few minutes for the Sharks and before that he did pretty well for the Boks. Hougaard on the other hand has played some exceptional rugby since he’s been given a chance at 9 for the Boks and the Bulls. So this one is tough, based on what I’ve heard of Ruan’s form and the style of game he plays, I would probably prefer him above Hougaard. He’s the better tactical kicker of the two and is a little more crafty and slick than Hougaard. He would bring the calm and experience that would be needed in a team of new combinations and caps.
Again, it’s not a clear cut selection, and I have seen a few very different desired combinations for these three positions. It’s a shame Alberts has picked up a niggle, because I’m sure we all would have loved to see him run out in the green and gold. I wouldn’t go with Spies, the guy hasn’t played anything resembling good rugby for quite a while now and he’s gotten a place in the team enough times just because he’s built like a horse. I have news for anyone who cares to listen, it doesn’t really matter. He can’t back his physique up with skills and until he does, he will remain useless. There, now that I got that of my back we can move on to the loosies that has been brilliant this season. Keegan Daniel has to be there, six, seven, eight, I don’t really care. He deserves it and won’t let the Boks down. I would play Juan Smith with him, not just for the experience, but also because he’s never had a bad game and is a great leader. The other obvious option then would be Kankowski and it’s about time that he gets a good run at the back of the scrum, he’s proven to be more than just a loose player. Stegman is there, but I don’t know why, since he hasn’t played any rugby this season, so Spies will have to cover the bench.
Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha have done it for us before and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue to do so, unless Bakkies… You know what let’s not even discuss that. I would pick Flip van Der Merwe anyway, he needs the game time at this level before the World Cup to proof that he’s up to standard. I would also like to see more of Alister Hargreaves on this tour. It’s a shame that Matfield has been selected as captain, because that would mean Al will probably be little more than a water boy.
The front row picks itself; it’s great to have our Bok front row back to fitness. Beast Mtwarira and Jannie Du Plessis have been great for the Sharks this season. The only concern could be fatigue (both mental and physical) after a massive game in the Currie Cup final, but if they can get themselves up to produce a performance close to the one they did a week ago, the Irish will have a tough time this weekend. Coenie Oosthuizen has had a great season with the Cheetahs and it would be harsh if he had to miss out on the 22 altogether, but CJ van Der Linde can cover both tight head and loose head and has a lot of international experience under his belt, so it would be tough to leave him out of the 22.
Bismark du Plessis is still the best hooker in South Africa. Chilliboy has produced some decent performances for the Bulls and was surprisingly good standing in for John Smit every time he left the field for the Boks. Adriaan Struass is probably the more solid, more in form, more deserving of the two, but Chilliboy has been preferred anytime he’s been fit to play, he must have something the rest of us can’t see.
That’s my analysis and this is my Team to play the Irish:
15. Zane (Krusty) Kirchner 14. Bryan Habana, 13. Adi Jacobs 12. Morne Steyn 11. Lwazi Mvovo 10. Patrick Lambie 9. Ruan Pienaar 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Juan Smith 6. Keegan Daniel 5. Victor Matfield 4. Flip van der Merwe 3. Jannie Du Plessis 2. Bismark Du Plessis 1. Tendai (Beast) Mtwarira
16. CJ Van Der Linde 17. Chilliboy Ralepelle 18. Alister Hargreaves 19. Pier Spies 20. Francois Hougaard 21. Elton Jantjies 22. Gio AplonTweet