Well, it seems that Heyneke Meyer did indeed manage to ruffle more than a few feathers with his first Bok squad, with those fearing that he would indeed opt to “maak die Bulls almal Bokke” certainly given plenty of fodder with which to fill their cannons.
Surprisingly, though, it is the Stormers who appear to have suffered the biggest collective snub, rather than the Sharks as so many of us feared. Hell, with no fewer than 11 of our boys (well, 10 with Frans Steyn a cheeky addition) one could argue that Meyer rates our players a fair bit more highly than they seem to rate themselves at times.
Let’s look at the squad and see which selections are causing the most heat for the coach.
Prop: No major concerns here, with the selections of Beast, Jannie and Coenie Oosthuizen generally well received. Few have said much about Werner Kruger’s inclusion, but it’s probably ok on the whole. Pat Cilliers is unlucky, I’d say, as is Dean Greyling.
Hooker: Meyer picked the three top guys in Bismark, Adriaan Strauss and Chilliboy. No arguments there.
Lock: Franco van der Merwe’s inclusion was the big shock here, but given that Andries Bekker’s spot had to go to somebody, it’s fair to say that the Lions man probably deserved it on sheer loyalty and staying power alone. I guess you can call him lucky, but injuries often do open unlikely doors, sometimes late in a player’s career. Flip van der Merwe, Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth were all expected, good, selections.
Loose forwards: Here we start to get contentious and it seems that everyone has their own opinions. Marcell Coetzee and Willem Alberts seem to be universally popular picks, with most also conceding that Keegan Daniel’s form warrants a spot. Pierre Spies was always going to be there based on his experience too. It’s the selection of Ryan Kankowski and Jacques Potgieter that has caused the most outrage; the former has played hardly any rugby this year while the latter has been pretty good, without being great. The real talking points, though, are the omission of Heinrich Brussow and to a lesser extent Siya Kolisi. Meyer has made a big call in leaving out Brussow and if Coetzee is to be his starting open side, as we’re told, he’s got some big boots to fill. Josh Strauss is another who is probably very unlucky to miss out to Potgieter.
Scrumhalves: with Fourie du Preez crying off at the last minute, Meyer needed to find a third scrummie in a hurry. Few seem to have a problem with Hougaard and Pienaar as the first two names, but Jano Verrmaak’s call-up ahead of Charl McLeod and Dewald Duvenage has raised allegations of provincial bias. My view is that we are in the midst of something of a scrumhalf crisis at the moment, with Vermaak not markedly worse than any of the other candidates.
Flyhalves: all the important names are there; Steyn, Lambie, Jantjies. In the Cape, they’ll bleat about Peter Grant, but Meyer is hardly the first Bok coach to write the former Martizburg College boy off as a genuine test option.
Centres: Get your gloves on…. the selection of Wynand Olivier for his experience is probably justified, but the inclusion of JJ Engelbrecht ahead of Juan de Jongh, to my mind, cannot be defended. At least we know that the first choice partnership of de Villiers and Frans Steyn is a good’un. This one, though, has the Stormers fans steaming and I have to say that they have a right to be annoyed.
Back three: Once again, it’s the omission of a Stormers man in Gio Aplon that has the tongues wagging here. Meyer’s feeling is that the pint-size Aplon isn’t big enough for the kind of rugby he wants to play and I guess that’s his prerogative as the coach, although hopefully he’ll keep an open mind and adjust his strategy as time goes by. Pietersen, Mvovo, Habana and Basson pretty much all pick themselves, while a dearth of options at fullback has given Zane Kirchner a slot too. Again, while I may not personally rate old “Sideshow Bob” much, Meyer is hardly the first coach to give the lad a shot at Bok rugby.
All-in-all, I’d say the coach got his squad about 80% right (although if I lived in Cape Town, I’d probably drop that to a 60%). The proof of the pudding, of course, is in how well it smashes the English, so let’s wait and see how this bunch performs in Saturday’s opening test before getting too worked up.Tweet