Mind Games: Meyer’s choices are a source of wonder

2013-11-04 10:00

Given some of the incomprehensible actions of national incumbents over the years, proof exists that a certain dementia overtakes even the most lucid of minds when a person is installed as Springbok coach.

And Heyneke Meyer has certainly caused some head-scratching in the short time he has been in charge.

There was his notion to call Victor Matfield out of retirement, to get Fourie du Preez to return from Japan (subsequently vindicated), the odd decision to send on two front-row substitutes as the Springboks were setting up for a massive scrum against the All Blacks at Ellis Park and now the selection of scrum half Louis Schreuder in the recently announced Bok touring party.

In Jano Vermaak and Piet van Zyl, Meyer discarded two players who did duty for him this year. He ignored the claims of the KwaZulu-Natal pair of Charl McLeod and Cobus Reinach, and Rory Kockott’s outstanding form in France.

If there was any consensus among commentators, it was that they could not see what Meyer sees in Schreuder. Others wonder at the wisdom of recalling a 34-year-old Bakkies Botha.

For now, the debate is about who is in the side, but Meyer’s biggest mistake may turn out to be the players he hasn’t picked.

The most obvious omission has to be Free State tight head prop Trevor Nyakane?–?more so now that Jannie du Plessis has been granted the convalescence he should have been given.

The most worrisome position in Springbok rugby at the moment is arguably the wearer of the number three jersey. Transformation considerations aside, it makes no sense not to bring Nyakane back after the tough disciplinary action he was subjected to in August.

He was expelled from the side briefly for “repeatedly breaching team protocols” and sent back to the Free State, but surely he has now served his punishment?

No less of a front-row giant than Os du Randt believes Nyakane has what it takes to anchor the Bok scrum. And with his three appearances as a substitute against Italy, Scotland and Samoa (and scoring a try against the latter), it makes sense to reintroduce him?–?especially as a tour represents an opportunity to inculcate team culture.

Equally, why stay with 32-year-old Gurthrö Steenkamp on the loose head side rather than giving Western Province’s Steven Kitshoff a richly deserved call-up?

Meyer seems to have again missed the chance to use a tour to bring in some youngsters. But ironically, he cannot be accused of not having searched far and wide when you study the list of 65 players (see below) he has called for national duty in the past two years (uncapped players in bold).

Tight heads: 2012?–?Jannie du Plessis, Werner Kruger, Pat Cilliers, Frans Malherbe,CJ van der Linde. 2013?–?Lourens Adriaanse, Trevor Nyakane

Loose heads: 2012?–?Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Dean Greyling, Gurthrö Steenkamp, JC Janse van Rensburg, Heinke van der Merwe.

Hookers: 2012?–?Bismarck du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Adriaan Strauss, Tiaan Liebenberg, Craig Burden, Schalk Brits. 2013?–?Siyabonga “Scarra” Ntubeni.

Locks: 2012?–?Eben Etzebeth, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe, Andries Bekker. 2013?–?Bakkies Botha, Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Flankers: 2012?–?Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Jacques Potgieter, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw. 2013?–?Arno Botha.

Number eights: 2012?–?Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski, Duane Vermeulen.

Scrum halves: 2012?– Francois Hougard, Ruan Pienaar. 2013?–?Jano Vermaak, Piet van Zyl, Fourie du Preez, Louis Schreuder.

Fly halves: 2012?–?Morné Steyn, Elton Jantjies, Patrick Lambie, Johan Goosen.

Centres: 2012?–?Jean de Villiers, Frans Steyn, Wynand Olivier, JJ Engelbrecht, Juan de Jongh, Jaco Taute. 2013?–?JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Jaque Fourie.

Wings: 2012?–?Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Bjorn Basson, Lwazi Mvovo, Raymond Rhule, Lionel Mapoe.

Utility: 2013?–?Willie le Roux, Gio Aplon. Fullback:2012?–?Zane Kirchner.

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