Richard Ferguson

Lessons from losses


Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Original Content, RWC 2015, Springboks on 17 Aug 2015 at 10:28
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Five international games have come and gone and we now sit in the position of waiting for the World Cup to start. Let’s have a look at what we might have learnt from these five games.

To start, I won’t lie, I did not watch the Argentina vs South Africa game this weekend. I saw the opening two minutes and the rest of my take on this match comes from watching the highlites packages and reading the reviews around the interwebs. But let’s be honest with ourselves for just a minute, it was an International Friendly that could have done more harm than good if players got injured a mere 5 weeks before the World Cup. Yes we won, yes we broke a winless run, but we have to look at the bigger picture here – If we played like we did against any other Union, let me rephrase, any other Top Tier Union, the score would have looked much different. But I digress.

The point here is to take some lessons from what we have seen form the Springboks, and you are all welcome to add your opinions below, as I am sure you all have something that I may miss.

I’m going to start up front, where I am sure you can all agree we now know that Jannie du Plessis, with all his shortcomings, is still our number 1 tighthead. He may be a tad over the hill and we have seen some seriously poor showings from him in the past, but the way he has stood up and showed his naysayers wrong is worth mentioning, and I have a feeling he will make a big impact at the World Cup. That said, Vincent Koch is a very talented young man and I hope he is learning as much as he can from Jannie, as I am sure he will be taking that starting spot from him very soon.

Victor Matfield should go to the World Cup. I know this is going to get me a few comments below, but hear me out. He may avoid the mauls like I avoid a bad curry, opting to stand in the backline somewhere, but his guile in the lineout is something the Boks need. He would be ideal to make an impact off the bench, coming on either when the going out there is tough, or if we have to see out the game. He has experience, and it is that experience in the last quarter that we missed in the matches against Australia and New Zealand.

The loose trio can be made up of anyone of 6 or 7 players – and ain’t that a good thing. Competition for places make players stand up and I am sure this is what is currently happening. We have seen great rugby from Marcell Coetzee, Heinrich Brussouw, Francois Louw and Schalk Burger. Willem Alberts showed what he can do, and that in his first match back. Add to that a Duane Vermeulen firing on all cylinders and we have some of the best in the business.

Fourie du Preez should not go to the World Cup. He has had all the time in the world to get back to fitness, it hasn’t happened, I feel sorry for the guy, but there simply isn’t space. It would be a great shame if he is selected with absolutely no form and someone like Francois Hougaard or even Faf de Klerk stays at home.

In Pollard and Lambie we have two world class flyhalves, I doubt we need to look beyond them for the World Cup and even beyond that. Lambie was great behind a good pack this weekend, showing his cool calm and collected self once again. I reckon Pollard would have been equally good behind that pack. We need to remind ourselves that Lambie is Pollard’s senior by 6 years, and just as Lambie went to the last World Cup with a handful of caps, Pollard should be at this year’s showpiece.

Jesse Kriel is a talented young man, but he is no wing. Kriel burst onto the scene against the Wallabies, and went equally well against the All Blacks, but he is definitely better in midfield. His inexperience showed in the Durban test against Argentina, and there is no way we can afford to test him at wing when we are leaving players like Lwazi Mvovo on the bench.

Speaking of Mvovo, this guy needs to start more games. What I saw from him on the highlites was great, he looked hungry and played better rugby in those few snippets than he has for the Sharks most of this season. If we can utilize him more in the national setup, with proper coaches getting his work rate up, he can go on to do great things for the Boks.

I could go on, but I have a few thoughts that I am keeping for another piece. The Boks are sitting at a strange junction at this point in time, they have fallen down the rankings and have had all and sundry basically write them off for this World Cup. It is now up to them to choose whether they want to follow the script or not.



39 Comments

  • The toughest part ahead for Meyer is deciding which injured players to take to the World Cup. There are a lot of very talented guys out injured at the moment so for e its not really about whats been happening on the field but off it that matters most. Which of these injured guys will be fit and firing to mount a serious World Cup challenge? If if Meyer is starting to doubt them then who will replace them…fringe guys in the squad or proven guys like Hougaard etc outside of the squad. Brace yourselves as there will be some big calls made in the coming weeks

  • Comment 1, posted at 17.08.15 10:54:25 by SheldonK Reply
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  • 15 WLR
    14 MVOVO
    13 KRIEL
    12 DE ALLENDE
    11 HABANA
    10 LAMBIE
    9 faf
    8 VERMEULEN [ FINGERS CROSSED]
    7ALBERTS
    6 F LOUW
    5 LOOD
    4 EBEN
    3 JANNIE
    2BISSY
    1 BEAST
    16 S BRITS
    17 NYAKANE
    18 MALHERBE
    19 PSDT
    20 BRUSSOW
    21 POLLARD
    22 KIRCHNER
    23 HOUGAARD

  • Comment 2, posted at 17.08.15 10:56:34 by grant10 Reply
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  • 15 WLR
    14 MVOVO
    13 KRIEL
    12 DE ALLENDE
    11 HABANA
    10 LAMBIE
    9 faf
    8 VERMEULEN [ FINGERS CROSSED]
    7ALBERTS
    6 F LOUW
    5 LOOD
    4 EBEN
    3 JANNIE
    2BISSY
    1 BEAST
    16 S BRITS
    17 NYAKANE
    18 MALHERBE
    19 PSDT
    20 BRUSSOW
    21 POLLARD
    22 KIRCHNER
    23 Hougaard

  • Comment 3, posted at 17.08.15 10:59:24 by grant10 Reply
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  • @grant10 (Comment 2) : I like, but I would definitely have Marcell in the 23. I also don’t think you can put Faf in the team without any game time.

  • Comment 4, posted at 17.08.15 11:01:45 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @grant10 (Comment 3) : Id probably put Schalk in for Brussouw and Serfontein or Jean Devilliers for Kirchner but rest seem good

  • Comment 5, posted at 17.08.15 11:07:34 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) : I dont think Marcell going to make squad sadly….with the injury and all

  • Comment 6, posted at 17.08.15 11:16:07 by grant10 Reply

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  • @SheldonK (Comment 5) : Faf is my bolter….I agree…he wont make squad sadly.

  • Comment 7, posted at 17.08.15 11:16:53 by grant10 Reply

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  • This would be my preferred 22, assuming everyone’s fit and Heyneke miraculously picks in-form players.

    Dry conditions:

    1. Mtawarira
    2. du Plessis
    3. du Plessis
    4. Etzebeth
    5. de Jager
    6. Louw
    7. Kriel
    8. Vermeulen (c)
    9. de Klerk
    10. Lambie
    11. Mvovo
    12. de Allende
    13. Kriel
    14. Combrinck
    15. le Roux

    16. Brits
    17. Nyakane
    18. PSdT
    19. Burger
    20. Hougaardt
    21. Pollard
    22. Mapoe

    Wet conditions:

    1. Nyakane
    2. du Plessis
    3. du Plessis
    4. Etzebeth
    5. Matfield
    6. Louw
    7. Alberts
    8. Vermeulen (c)
    9. Pienaar
    10. Lambie
    11. Mvovo
    12. de Allende
    13. Kriel
    14. Combrinck
    15. Steyn

    16. Ntabeni
    17. Mtawarira
    18. de Jager
    19. Burger
    20. Pienaar
    21. Pollard
    22. Mapoe

  • Comment 8, posted at 17.08.15 11:17:18 by Spirit of Rugby Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) :

    AGREED ON BOTH COUNTS!

  • Comment 9, posted at 17.08.15 11:18:18 by Den Reply

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  • @grant10 (Comment 7) : I agree. So think u can replace Faf with Fourie DuPreez and probably Pienaar over Hougaard. I still think Hougaard needs to be in the squad somewhere…

  • Comment 10, posted at 17.08.15 11:22:49 by SheldonK Reply

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  • Rich, it wasn’t like Argentina disappeared. They still put pressure on our line and breakdown. I honestly believe especially on attack, we looked better because we played expansively when it was on and went to the forwards and kept it tight when it was needed and every so often (even on TV) you could see Lambie’s hand going out, pointing in the direction he wanted the ball should go.

    Pollard is one dimensional and only good when we are on the front foot. Yes, his game management should come with time, but I seriously wouldn’t test whether this is up to scratch in a Quarter Final against Aus/Wales/Eng.

    A Flyhalf needs to be able to perform under pressure.

    Btw, Lambie made 2 clean breaks in this game, it’s not like his attach game is non-existent. He is just by far a more rounded player than Pollard currently is.

  • Comment 11, posted at 17.08.15 11:31:09 by Letgo Reply
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  • My 31 players starting with my 1st choice 23:

    15. Lwazi Mvovo, 14. Willie le Roux, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Duane Vermeulen (c), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Flo Louw, 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bis du Plessis, 1. Beast Mtawarira

    16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Schalk Britz, 19. PS du Toit, 20. Marcell Coetzee, 21. Francois Hougaard, 22. Handre Pollard, 23. JP Pietersen

    24. Vincent Koch, 25. Adriaan Struass, 26. Victor Matfield, 27. Heinrich Brussouw, 28. Faf de Klerk, 29. Elton Jantjies, 30. Lionel Mapoe, 31. Jean de Villiers

    Missing out (standby): Coenie Oosthuizen, Scarra Ntubeni, Gerhard Mostert, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Fourie du Preeze, Ruan Pienaar, Morne Steyn, Jan Serfontein, Frans Steyn, Cornal Hendricks

  • Comment 12, posted at 17.08.15 11:41:31 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 12) :

    I prefer Willie at 14, giving him more freedom to roam the backline and taking some of the responsibility of 15 of his back, which I feel he’s been poor at and has effected the way he plays. Lwazi can play 15, very well and has show of all the wings in SA, that he is most in form.

  • Comment 13, posted at 17.08.15 11:43:25 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 12) :

    You would seriously drop Pienaar out of the Squad completely?

    I think Ruan played well so far this International season. He has controlled the game when it was lacking from the flyhalf, and fed Lambie well this past weekend.

    From what Cobus has shown coming off the bench, he does not warrant a start. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Comment 14, posted at 17.08.15 11:44:32 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 12) :

    I would definitely start Lambie. Faf has been the in form SA scrummy, but he is too much of an unknown to start (or even possibly take to the WC). Reinach and Lambie combines well and has done so at test level too.

    I would have loved for Faf and Jantjies to have been given a game at international level, but I would take them as 3rd choice anyway. Hougaard and Pollard is my 2nd choice.

  • Comment 15, posted at 17.08.15 11:45:45 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 14) :

    Reinach has been given 30 minutes in 5 tests. And was given 19 minutes against Argintina in Durban, and actually was a big improvement on Ruan (especially after Lambie came on). He was given about 2 minutes in every other test. It’s difficult to judge him on that. I’m judging him on his last starts he was given. He was by far the best of the bok scrummies last year.

    It’s a tough choice to drop Pienaar. If I take him, it would be in place of Faf (only because I think it is risky to take uncapped players to the World Cup and I think Hougaard in current form, experience and as untility player, is a better option). Also the reason I would possibly drop Mapoe and take Schalk or another, because I don’t know what Mapoe’s value to the Boks will be (while his value is great at his union, it is not guaranteed that it will be the same at the Boks).

  • Comment 16, posted at 17.08.15 11:52:49 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 14) :

    I also think Ruan did a decent job (while is not very well liked in SA and his gotten a lot of criticism). I just feel Reinach is better and proved that last year, when he was given the 9 jersey ahead of Ruan in the last 3 tests of the year.

    I don’t know why HM didn’t give any other scrummy gametime. I thought Faf, Hougaard and Reinach, should have been the ones to fight it out. Reinach is the better kicking out of the three of them and we already know he combines well with Lambie… that’s why he is my option.

  • Comment 17, posted at 17.08.15 11:55:44 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 16) :
    @Letgo (Comment 17) :

    Fair enough, I get your thinking..

  • Comment 18, posted at 17.08.15 11:57:21 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • Let’s just say, I don’t think Ruan is anything special…anymore.

    And for an experienced player, does not bring a lot of leadership and guidance to the rest of the team.

  • Comment 19, posted at 17.08.15 11:58:05 by Letgo Reply
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  • The big scrummy question revolves around Fourie DuPreez…will he go? If he can run a little i think he will BUT if he doesnt go then who goes as no.3…at the moment thats Rudy Paige! Loose forward is another one where it will depend which injured guys heal best. The 10s have picked themselves…Lambie/Pollard/Steyn. Centres fairly done and dusted with JDV,DeAllende,Kriel and Serfontein. Back 3 could be interesting. And is Frans Steyn still a consideration…

  • Comment 20, posted at 17.08.15 12:09:09 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 18) :

    It’s not like a couldn’t be swayed. It’s a tough thing to do, to select a Bok team. Jan Serfontein (who played every test last year), misses out completely. Tough call to make, but I feel like Jean should be in the squad.

    I also hoped that we could see FSteyn, because I feel his value in covering every backline position, World Cup Experience and massive kicking boot is something you just might find usefull, but who do you replace? The possibly, I would leave Elton, since he does not tick all the above boxes and I don’t know if I would feel so comfortable if Pollard/Lambie is injured and he needs to play the last 20 min of a final. I just haven’t seen enough of him to confidently be able to say, he will slot that 55 meter kick to give us the win.

  • Comment 21, posted at 17.08.15 12:11:16 by Letgo Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 20) :

    A lot of questions that I think will only be answered when Meyer selects his squad of 31. Until then, we can speculate until we are blue in the face, we don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes..

    I am interested to see if any of the fringe players are released to play some Currie Cup matches..

  • Comment 22, posted at 17.08.15 12:14:43 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 22) : I dont think Meyer himself knows exactly as he is playing the waiting game on a lot of injuries. I cant recall but i dont remember previous world cup squads being disrupted by this many injuries prior to it being selected…

  • Comment 23, posted at 17.08.15 12:21:19 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @Letgo (Comment 21) :

    Yeah look, I think everybody has their own ideas of who should go and who shouldn’t, and a squad of only 31 rather limits Meyer, or anybody for that matter.

    I wouldn’t want to be the New Zealand coach who selects only 31 players from the group that has performed so well over the last couple of seasons.

    The most important thing the Boks need is Balance. Balance between youth and experience, balance between form and reputation, balance between risk and conservative. It’s a shit job being a coach, and with so much at stake, I want to feel for the guy..

  • Comment 24, posted at 17.08.15 12:21:33 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 23) :

    Agreed – I think four years ago we had a pretty good idea of who was going and who not. At this stage, I think we can mention as many as 50 players all with a reasonable shot at making the squad.

    It would be interesting to see how many DEFENITE players there are. No matter where they are in terms of injury, who IS going to the World Cup. I can think of:

    Beast
    Bismarck
    Adriaan Strauss
    Eben Etzebeth
    Victor Matfield
    Francois Louw
    Ruan Pienaar
    Pat Lambie
    Handre Pollard
    Damian de Allende
    Jesse Kriel
    Bryan Habana
    Willie le Roux

    The rest are all iffy and/or injured, in my opinion.

  • Comment 25, posted at 17.08.15 12:25:24 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 25) : I think you can include Lood De Jager and Schalk Burger. And Morne Steyn i think too.I also think Trevor Nyakane and Schalk Brits are also on the probable list

  • Comment 26, posted at 17.08.15 12:29:59 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 14) :

    Another change I may make after this weekend only, is Matfield starting and Lood on the bench. Yes, Lood has been massive, but there’s something you lose by playing him instead of Matfield. Maybe if Lood had been given that 5 jersey since start last year. In this scenario PSDT would miss out completely. He has never started a game for the Boks and for me, at a WC that counts against him.

    HM has been so stuck on past players that he never gave the experience to younger players. Lambie should have started since 2012, giving him way more experience than he has now (HM has never started him more than 3 consecutive games and has also only done so once). While Jantjies/Goosen(injuries)/Pollard should also have been given more time (in smaller games/ of the bench, to grow).

    De Allende was arguably our best 12 since end 2013/ start 2014. He should have been given more starts.

    Reinach and Hougaard should have been played ahead of Ruan, who was never better than solid, and never consistently so. Neither was Reinach or Hougaard, but they were also not consistently selected. Faf should have been at the 2014 EOYT.

    Jannie should have been rested way more and Malherbe/Coenie and others should have been given more time to develop. Same on the loosehead side.

    Duane, Willem and Flo was also selected to much (they should have played the bulk as the first choice, but the 2nd choice should have been given enough time to develop, while our 1st got chance to rest). Brussouw, Marcell, Kolisi, (Burger was injured), should have consistently been the backup and given more opportunities.

    We also didn’t give Mvovo any game time. And once Willie was 1st, HM didn’t give a second thought to a 2nd option. Guys like Andries Coetzee, Lwazi Mvovo, even Kolbie, and now Combrick, Kirchner … should have been there on a regular basis and should have known their role as a second choice.

  • Comment 27, posted at 17.08.15 12:32:07 by Letgo Reply
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  • As far as building a squad, Heyneke selected who he thought was best, while hoping to get back players like – Bakkies, Juan, Guthro, Fdp, Fourie and FSteyn.

    If you look at his player management as a whole over the last 4 years, it has been horrible, and a massive reason for the difficulty in selecting a decent RWC squad, with a good mix of experience, form and youth.

    My RWC Squad would have looked quite different had the team been managed different by HM, even just in the last 5 tests, but more so over the long term.

  • Comment 28, posted at 17.08.15 12:33:03 by Letgo Reply
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  • Although selections are a valid concern, I’m far more worried about game plan to be honest. Still too much of a Jekyll & Hyde feel to the Boks.

  • Comment 29, posted at 17.08.15 12:39:30 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 22) :

    I think I would be able to name a 31 man squad that HM will select with at least 90% accuracy, with the latest selection debacle putting a little doubt in my mind.

    I highly doubt that HM will select any players that hasn’t played more than 10 games under him, except for Kriel. And I also don’t think that Hougaard will go. I

    I’m not even sure Brussouw will go unless either Flo or Marcel is injured.

    Look at who HM stuck with in the last few years and you’ll see the 31 man squad very close to almost selected. Even Jan, who hasn’t played recently has a pretty good chance of going because of that.

  • Comment 30, posted at 17.08.15 12:40:51 by Letgo Reply
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  • HM Squad

    15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen/ Lwazi Mvovo, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Jean de Villiers, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Flo Louw, 5. Victor Matfield, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bis du Plessis, 1. Beast Mtawarira

    16. Coenie Oosthuizen, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Adriaan Struass, 19. Lood de Jager, 20. Schalk Burger, 21. Fourie de Preeze, 22. Patrick Lambie, 23. Damian de Allende

    24. Frans Malherbe, 25. Schalk Britz, 26. PS du Toit, 27. Marcel Coetzee, 28. Heinrich Brussow, 29. Cobus Reinach, 30. Morne Steyn, 31. Lwazi Mvovo

    If JP Pietersen is injured – Lwazi Mvovo/Frans Steyn (Lionel Mapoe)
    If Jean de Villiers is injuried – Damian de Allende/Jan Serfontein
    If Fourie de Preeze is injured – Cobus Reinach/ Francois Hougaard
    If Duane Vermuelen is injured – Schalk Burger/ Oupa Mahoje
    If Willem Alberts is injured – Marcell Coetzee/ Siya Kolis
    Íf Flo Louw is injured – Marcell Coetzee/ Heinrich Brussouw
    If Coenie Oosthuizen is injured – Frans Malherbe/ Vincent Koch

  • Comment 31, posted at 17.08.15 13:01:35 by Letgo Reply
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  • @grant10 (Comment 3): I notice Victor is not in your team. Is that a typo? :mrgreen:

  • Comment 32, posted at 17.08.15 16:36:37 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) : I would definitely have Marcell in my 23…

  • Comment 33, posted at 17.08.15 16:37:24 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Spirit of Rugby (Comment 8) : You’re supposed to pick 23… :mrgreen:

  • Comment 34, posted at 17.08.15 16:38:53 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 27) : Ummmmm Marcell was consistently the backup, filling in at both 6 and 7 when others were injured, he has accumulated almost 30 caps under HM. Sorry can’t agree that Marcell has not been afforded enough game time under HM. I believe that if Marcell can just be fit in time for RWC HM will take him. He is probably HM’s second choice at both 6 and 7.

  • Comment 35, posted at 17.08.15 17:04:32 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 32) : Victor can captain the Bok over 35 team…..

  • Comment 36, posted at 17.08.15 18:26:04 by grant10 Reply

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  • @grant10 (Comment 36) : Bok Legends in Bermuda. ;-)

  • Comment 37, posted at 17.08.15 18:31:12 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • One of HM’s biggest problems going into the RWC is that all the players in his squad with captaincy experience, are either injured, not first choice, or (in the case of Bissie) likely to implode. HM may need to start Lambie at 10 just to captain the side :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :twisted: :twisted:

  • Comment 38, posted at 17.08.15 18:35:58 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 38) : he’s riding in the same boat as Spain did in the last Soccor World cup by banking on all his “experienced” players instead of developing young players in time to replace them. I just hope the Bokke don’t end up where the Spanish did!!!!

  • Comment 39, posted at 19.08.15 12:53:54 by JD Reply
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