Richard Ferguson

Bok selection countdown – Halfbacks


Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 21 May 2012 at 10:00
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The Springboks host the English in less than three weeks’ time, and we continue our look at the possible team selected by coach Heyneke Meyer. Today we look at the halfbacks, probably one of the easier combinations to predict when it comes to that first test in Durban on 9 June 2012.

Again the question arises whether the coach will look to two individual players or a combination of halfbacks that play together at the same franchise. In this case, it is pretty simple as the best two players are in fact playing week in and week out for the Bulls, being Francois Hougaard and Morne Steyn.

Looking at the number 9 jersey first, there is only really one player that has put up his hand and is almost guaranteed selection, with Francois Hougaard being in great form for the Bulls, helping them sit as high on the log as they currently do. He is the most rounded scrumhalf in the country, with the crispest of passes, speed and accuracy in those passes as well as having that little something extra, that air of unpredictability, that X-factor. Oh, did I mention he has a pretty decent boot on him as well?

So the 9 jersey is pretty much wrapped up, but there will always be more than one in the squad announcement, and this is where it gets tricky. No other scrumhalf stands out as a second in line, in case something might happen to Hougaard. The bench of the bunch is probably Dewaldt Duvenhage, who has been getting all the game time down in the Cape, and is a solid player, albeit slightly unspectacular.

Duvenhage has experience on his side, having played all of 50 Super Rugby matches already, even though he is only 24 years old. Now I know experience does not count much, but as a solid backup, I think he can do the job.

Should Meyer go looking elsewhere, there is always the Ruan Pienaar option. He has been in amazing form for his club in Europe and even being nominated as the player of the year for the campaign as a whole. We know that he can be a gamebreaker, and has a very good boot on him as well, both from behind the ruck and at goal. I hate to say this, but his versatility from the bench also adds weight to his inclusion.

Scrumhalves that I haven’t considered but that are available include the Cheetahs pair of Piet van Zyl and Tewis de Bruyn, both whom I feel are simply not up to standard, the Lions pair of Ross Cronje and Tian Meyer, who both just do not have the experience or the ability to step into a Bok jersey. Charl McLeod from the Sharks has been poor all season, and will not be able to stake a claim on current form. Sarel Pretorius, currently playing for the Waratahs, is also not in the greatest form, and cannot be considered, as well as being counted as an ‘overseas’ player.

Shifting our attention to the flyhalf position, it is not as straight forward as the position discussed above, with a few more players putting up their hand with so good form shown so far this season. Starting with the favourite, Morne Steyn recently played his 100th Super Rugby match, and will almost certainly be the number ten come 9 June.

He has the necessary experience and has been in decent form so far this year. He plays the type of game that Heyneke Meyer likes, and does it well. His connection with Francois Hougaard also counts in his favour, the only part of his game that perhaps is slipping a bit is his goal kicking accuracy.

The media especially, were calling for young Johan Goosen to be second in line during this series, fast tracking him at a very young age, but he has since injured himself, ruling him out until Currie Cup time. Whether he would have made the squad, we will never know. Based on his selection for the Junior World Championships to take place at the same time as the test series against England, indicates that Meyer was not yet ready to risk the player.

Another player to consider for the ten jersey is the Stormers pivot, Peter Grant, who has been playing very good rugby for the Stormers, being part of the table topping team. He has more of an attacking flair than Morne Steyn does, yet his team as whole fail to score tries, which does count against him. His kicking record is outstanding, with a 90%+ average for the year so far.

Pat Lambie is another name one can throw in the hat, with the youngster playing the full Super Rugby season at flyhalf, instead of at fullback, which is where he featured during the World Cup for The Boks. He is the most attacking minded flyhalf in the country, with sniping breaks being his trademark. He has shone at the Sharks, taking into consideration that his service from McLeod has been inconsistent and poor at times. His kicking accuracy has improved dramatically, with one of his flaws being that he tends to miss the attacking penalties when going for the sideline.

Elton Jantjies has been in the Springbok mix before, playing one game against the Barbarians and not getting a chance since. His form at the Lions has been nothing to write home about, whether that is due to his own form or whether it is the form of the team and reversing pack he playing behind, is debatable. Personally, I cannot see him being involved in this squad, and will have to have a very good Currie Cup and potentially find himself another union if he wants to wear the Green and Gold again.

Meyer’s probable pick:
9.Francois Hougaard
10.Morne Steyn
21.Dewald Duvenhage

Ferguson’s form pick:
9.Francois Hougaard
10.Morne Steyn
21.Ruan Pienaar



41 Comments

  • Is it just me or is Hougaard’s passing not always consistently that flash?

    I rate the guy – would select him at 9 for the Boks

    What about Fourie du Preez?

  • Comment 1, posted at 21.05.12 10:09:10 by Bokhoring Reply
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  • It seems that its mostly people outside of WP/Stormers that rate Dewaldt whatsoever. He is very average and it will be a very sad day if he ever becomes a Bok.

  • Comment 2, posted at 21.05.12 10:26:08 by molly Reply
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  • @molly (Comment 2) : he might just, though, due to playing in a very strong team when there is literally nobody else.

    I laugh when people say we have scrumhalf depth in SA. We have Hougaard and nobody else.

  • Comment 3, posted at 21.05.12 10:28:54 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 3) : Scrumhalf is a major problem, do people really say we have depth there? Outside of Hougaard (who to be fair, isn’t really brilliant at scrumhalf play) who do we have? Heyneke is going to have to bring Pienaar back. No one is putting their hands up in super rugby, I was really hoping someone would stand up before the June tests, its not looking likely.

  • Comment 4, posted at 21.05.12 10:32:35 by molly Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 3) :

    Not anymore but at one stage we did have a lot of quality no9′s.

    @molly (Comment 2) :

    I would pick Jano Vermaak as back-up scrumhalf even though he isn’t 1st choice for the Bulls.He is a fantastic player.

  • Comment 5, posted at 21.05.12 10:35:59 by Pokkel Reply
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  • I just dont know about Ruan. Great guy and I always rated him – very talented.

    But I do want my scrumhalves to get tough when the going gets tough.

  • Comment 6, posted at 21.05.12 10:38:53 by Bokhoring Reply

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  • @Pokkel (Comment 5) : I’d pick McLeod, because at least he has a test cap and we don’t have to hand out another to a player that is probably just a stop gap.

    Actually I’d call on Pienaar, and I think there’s a strong chance of FdP making a return.

    I haven’t seen enough of Vermaak this year to gauge, but he never seemed to reach the form he had a few years ago.

  • Comment 7, posted at 21.05.12 10:41:03 by molly Reply
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  • It might be an idea to bring back FDP as back-up to Hougaard. FDP’s had his day, and he himself has said its now Hougaard’s time to shine, but having his experience in the squad will be excellent support for Meyer.

    I also think Vermaak might be the best of a bad bunch, but I think he’s shafted himself by joining the Bulls. That was definitely a career limiting move in terms of exposure for a Bok call-up. I wondr what was promised him that he joined the Bulls? Even playing for the poor Lions would’ve been better for him from an exposure point of view?

  • Comment 8, posted at 21.05.12 10:52:00 by CS Reply

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  • I quite like this Van Zyl guy playing for the Cheetahs – perhaps one for the future

  • Comment 9, posted at 21.05.12 10:54:14 by Bokhoring Reply

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  • A lot of our scrummies left in the last few years…let me try to back that up.

    To start Fourie du Preez, Ruan Fourie, both of whom were our bok scrummies.

    Rory Kockett who although he fell of the pace was pegged as a Sprinbok at one point.

    Sarel Pretorius – he was voted SA Super Rugby Player of 2011.

    McLeod at one stage looked like he was going to become a good Sprinbok backup.

    Jano Vermaak always looked promising for the Lions, but now has to be satisfied with a bench spot and can’t really be rated.

    Devenage is solid at best, but wouldn’t be the worse pick for the boks.

    That’s seven players – 4 left to play overseas, 1 has a bench spot, 1 lost form and 1 continues to be an option.

    We didn’t have back up scrummies for the 4 guys that left, but we’ll soon see some of the youngsters coming through.

    Piet van Zyl is certainly showing some promise already.

  • Comment 10, posted at 21.05.12 10:54:33 by Letgo Reply
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  • @CS (Comment 8) : He’ll start for the Bulls in the CC.

  • Comment 11, posted at 21.05.12 10:56:03 by Letgo Reply
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  • Assuming Meyer decides to go with safety first i.t.o the flyhalves, all but guaranteeing Morne a starting berth… what do you guys reckon he should do with Lambie?

    He’s definitely a star in the making (if not already one)and I think he needs to be there… perhaps at Fullback again, seeing as no-one is really sticking their hands up in that department, and assuming Frans Steyn is at inside Centre?

    Or this a discussion for the next thread (ie Centres & Fullbacks) :lol:

  • Comment 12, posted at 21.05.12 10:56:40 by CS Reply

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  • I’d rather start Ruan at 9 with Hougaard starting on the wing. He and Mvovo are our best attacking wings. Jano Vermaak has crisp service and can back Pienaar up!

  • Comment 13, posted at 21.05.12 10:57:02 by ChrisS Reply
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  • @ChrisS (Comment 13) :

    What do you do with JP Pietersen then?

  • Comment 14, posted at 21.05.12 11:05:49 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @ChrisS (Comment 13) : JPP looked very good against the Cheetahs

  • Comment 15, posted at 21.05.12 11:06:04 by Bokhoring Reply

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  • @Bokhoring (Comment 15)@Richard Ferguson (Comment 14) : : A lot of people will give me stick for this but I’d like lambie to start at 10 with JPP at 15.

    Mvovo and Hougaard are ridiculously explosive off the mark and can get up to top speed straight away. JPP takes a bit longer to get going but is a very elusive and quick runner when at full pace. I think him playing at 15 will give him the time to get up to speed and the openings that he thrives on. He’s also very tall and can kick well. His strength will also allow him to stay on his feet long enough for defenders to get back should he get caught in possession under a high ball.

  • Comment 16, posted at 21.05.12 11:09:32 by ChrisS Reply
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  • Hougaard’s passing isn’t always the best and I see him more as a wing who can play scrummy than a scrummy who can play wing…

  • Comment 17, posted at 21.05.12 11:10:56 by ChrisS Reply
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  • It’s a pity we don’t actually have more quaility scrum-halves, because I actually agree with Chris that Hougaards best position would be on the wing. He’s been brilliant there in the past and I reckon he’d be a good replacement for Habana.

    It sounds like Pienaar has been doing well for Ulster, so maybe he has matured enough to take the Bok 9 jersey?

  • Comment 18, posted at 21.05.12 11:11:53 by CS Reply

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  • @CS (Comment 18) : I agree!! His pass isn’t always the best either and he’s (in my opinion) one of the best wings in the world. He’s explosive off the mark and tackles like a mamba!!

  • Comment 19, posted at 21.05.12 11:15:43 by ChrisS Reply
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  • @ChrisS (Comment 16) : I like this idea, it has lambie at ten ;-)

    Hougaard I think is an excellent 9, but can be more potent on the wing. It feels like his pace and spark is wasted at 9 where he basically just passes the ball.

    Ruan has been our best second option for a very long time, it just sucks that he decided to sign another 2 year contract with Ulster, I would like to see players playing in SA getting selected. Therefore, hougaard at 9.

  • Comment 20, posted at 21.05.12 11:20:20 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 20) : What about Vermaak at 9? I’ve always rated him and he was, and still is, streaks better than Januarie ever was. Play him at 9 and Hougaard at 11. Like you said, Hougaard is wasted at 9!!

  • Comment 21, posted at 21.05.12 11:22:33 by ChrisS Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 20) : In the professional era I really believe we shouldn’t be blind to the overseas players… Pienaar’s benefit is that he should know the English players well, which would be an advantage for the upcoming tour

    I can’t see Meyer not starting with Hougaard at 9 though.

  • Comment 22, posted at 21.05.12 11:23:02 by CS Reply

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  • @CS (Comment 22) : I keep hearing though that Meyer rates him as a wing. That’s why people seem so convinced that FDP will return.

  • Comment 23, posted at 21.05.12 11:25:38 by ChrisS Reply
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  • Why do people these days call numbers 9 and 10 “the halfbacks”?
    In South Africa (and most of the rugby world) number 9 is scrumhalf and number 10 is flyhalf.
    In New Zealand, number 9 (and only number 9) is called half-back and number 10 is called first five-eight.

    I suspect it’s some of our tv commentators that picked it up incorrectly from their NZ colleagues.

  • Comment 24, posted at 21.05.12 11:47:30 by MysticShark Reply
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  • Not just an SA thing – wikipedia has definition of half back as either scrum-half or fly-half

  • Comment 25, posted at 21.05.12 11:55:52 by Bokhoring Reply

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  • @Bokhoring (Comment 25) : Interesting, probably written by a South African :smile:

  • Comment 26, posted at 21.05.12 12:01:41 by MysticShark Reply
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  • @MysticShark (Comment 26) : unlikely as it also refers to the use of half back in NFL

  • Comment 27, posted at 21.05.12 12:05:16 by Bokhoring Reply

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  • @MysticShark (Comment 24) : ScrumHALF and FlyHALF and they’re backline players. I’m just taking a guess though.

  • Comment 28, posted at 21.05.12 12:08:21 by ChrisS Reply
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  • 9. Hougaard, 10. Lambi….. and Pienaar on the bench….

  • Comment 29, posted at 21.05.12 12:12:11 by Franshark Reply
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  • @CS (Comment 22) : In the professional era a player can play wherever he wants to, but if we want to keep our local teams strong it would be a bad business decision to keep rewarding players, keeping other “businesses” healthy.

    Has been my opinion for a while. It’s not just about international rugby. You have to look at the strength of your local teams as well and if players playing overseas keep getting selected we will have no means to keep them here. Do you want SA rugby to keep going backwards, because at the rate players are leaving even with the threat of not being eligible for Bok selection, SA rugby will not be in a good state for much longer … just my opinion.

    How many top players left in the last 10 years, or even 5, 2 or just after the World Cup?

    I just don’t think it is good for SA rugby.

  • Comment 30, posted at 21.05.12 12:16:53 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 30) : Brent Russell, Schalk Brits, Ernst Joubert, Ronnie Cooke, Marius Joubert, Wille Wepener, Daan Human, Faan Rautenbach, Gcobani Bobo, Scott Spedding, Greg Goosen, Steve Meyer, Antonie Claasen, Richardt Strauss, Heinke Van Der Merwe, Wiaan Du preez, Michael Claasens, Sam Gerber, Friederich Lombaard, Tonderai Chanvanga, Butch James, Francois Louw, Luke Watson, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Breyton Paulse…

    Quite a team that you could make there and that’s a lot of experience and talent when you consider that not all of them went over at the end of their careers!

  • Comment 31, posted at 21.05.12 12:49:20 by ChrisS Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 3) : I really wish Conrad Hoffmann would live up to his potential. It would be good for the Sharks too.

  • Comment 32, posted at 21.05.12 13:19:09 by lostfish Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 30) : The players are always going to leave to go and play overseas. Today it is more about financial security than loyalty. These guys only have a short period of time in which to earn money and by going overseas they can earn a hell of a lot more than in South Africa.

  • Comment 33, posted at 21.05.12 13:20:30 by lostfish Reply
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  • I was at the Stormers game on Saturday and was able to see first hand why they battle to score tries. Duvenage is by far the worst scrumhalf in the country at the moment. He takes way too long to get a pass away and every time the stormers have go forward ball he kicks a very bland kick. Very uninspiring stuff. I really hope he is just executing a poor game plan and is not really such a terrible tactician.

  • Comment 34, posted at 21.05.12 13:24:43 by Orelando_G Reply

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  • @ChrisS (Comment 31) : I was reading your list…very interesting. Then I got to the name 4th from last and I puked on my keyboard.

  • Comment 35, posted at 21.05.12 13:28:33 by Orelando_G Reply

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  • @Bokhoring (Comment 1) : It’s just you. :razz:

  • Comment 36, posted at 21.05.12 13:50:08 by KSA Shark © Reply

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  • @Orelando_G (Comment 35) : Hahaha!! I had to be unbiased and list the players who have left whether I like them or not. I am by no means a fan of his!!!

  • Comment 37, posted at 21.05.12 13:50:09 by ChrisS Reply
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  • @ChrisS (Comment 37) : as well as being unbiased and listing a few whether they were any good or not. Claasen, Spedding, Goosen, Meyer, Lombaard.

    You missed out Mauritz Botha as a good player and to balance that with a poor player I’ll throw in Barritt’s name as well. :lol:

  • Comment 38, posted at 21.05.12 14:00:19 by KSA Shark © Reply

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  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 38) : Apologies…

  • Comment 39, posted at 21.05.12 14:06:55 by ChrisS Reply
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  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 36) : That is good to know then :smile:

  • Comment 40, posted at 21.05.12 16:00:38 by Bokhoring Reply

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  • @ChrisS (Comment 31) : @KSA Shark © (Comment 38) : What about, Pienaar, Jaque Fourie, F Du Preeze, Johan Muller, Rory Kockett, Gerhard Mosterd, Jean de Villiers (who would not have come back if he did not feel like his spot in the Springbok team was threatened by his decision)… F. Steyn, B Barritt….

  • Comment 41, posted at 21.05.12 16:07:45 by Letgo Reply
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