Now all the Bokke have to do is win

2011-08-27 19:32

The group has been chosen, patted on the shoulder, the team-building session completed and goodbyes have been said.

Now it’s time to put shoulder to the wheel for the 30 Springboks who will be flying to New Zealand on Thursday to defend their World Cup crown.

For coach Peter de Villiers, the journey is the high point of four years’ planning and preparation. And the coach is definitely greyer but not wiser about the elephant in the room concerning the form of his hookers.

The fact that Bismarck du Plessis is not prepared to play second fiddle as hooker anymore was made totally clear in Port Elizabeth, not only by the form of the player, but also by his reaction when he was replaced by John Smit as hooker against the All Blacks.

In 10 days De Villiers will make his team for the match against Wales public and his choice of hooker will be vital in determining the mood of the group.

This week the Springboks were team building in the Kruger National Park, but the unity there will quickly be replaced by the realities of the tournament.

Experts have said that unless there are injuries to the tighthead, the team is balanced and talented enough to defend its crown, despite some pointing to the potential problem of Smit not being ranked as the best player in his position anymore.

Names of the 12 players on standby were announced this week. While to Ashley Johnson and Lwazi Mvovo this was proof of just how close they were to making the squad of 30, for Zane Kirchner it brought the knowledge that their appearance in green and gold was worth the effort.

Kirchner, who missed out on the overseas leg of the Tri-Nations due to an injury and played in 10 of the Sprinboks’ 14 tests last year, currently has the best chance of being called up to help out in New Zealand in the next two months.

Frans Steyn and Pat Lambie are currently struggling with injuries and although the medical team has full confidence that they will both play against Wales, their setback could be Kirchner’s advantage.

In 2007, only Jannie du Plessis was called as a tighthead and was eventually chosen as a replacement in the final against England, although he didn’t get a chance to play.

With only two tightheads in the group, and CJ van der Linde with a long history of injuries, Werner Kruger should probably also make sure his passport is not packed far away.

The Bulls tighthead did not have a happy Tri-Nations tournament, but being chosen as a local replacement makes it clear that people still have faith in the Jeugland old boy.

The fact that everyone with the exception of Kirchner, was on that tour shows that coach de Villiers has not changed his mind about his players.

Ryan Kankowski and especially Flip van der Merwe suddenly find themselves in the cold and must have been shocked at their lost Springbok status.

Kankowski was beaten by Johnson, and Van der Merwe by Gerhard Mostert, but the Bulls’ player will wonder why he was chosen for nine consecutive tests before a rib injury against the Wallabies forced him off the field.

Coenie Oosthuizen’s lack of action on tour also meant that Greyling beat him on loosehead.
 
The choice of Mvovo, Wynand Olivier, Jantjies, Charl McLeod and Jean Deysel was an obvious one.

The stand-by group is:
Fullback: Zane Kirchner; Wing: Lwazi Mvovo; Centre: Wynand Olivier; Flyhalf: Elton Jantjies; Scrumhalf: Charl McLeod; Eighthman: Ashley Johnson; Flank: Jean Deysel; Lock: Alistair Hargreaves; Number four slot: Gerhard Mostert;
Tighthead prop: Werner Kruger; Loosehead prop: Dean Greyling; Hooker: Adriaan Strauss.


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