Rein in Boks until World Cup?

2011-06-04 00:00

SO it’s less than 100 days to go and the Springboks are a broken lot.

Or are they?

Depending on who you prefer to believe, our senior Boks are either played into the ground and injured or are starting to build up nicely towards the Super Rugby playoffs, Tri-Nations and of course, the big one in New Zealand.

I was tasked to speak to Victor Matfield about his checklist for the Rugby World Cup and found the veteran lock in a pretty optimistic mood.

He felt that most of the boxes have been ticked, but afterwards, off the record, I found him a bit uncertain as to the final 30 players that coach Peter de Villiers will pick. He felt it is a good thing that there is a core group, but also some available spots for those who stood out in the Super Rugby competition.

In the following days leading up to the World Cup there will inevitably be a lot of discussion on the issue of the final 30.

I am rather interested to see how De Villiers will go about selecting his final 30.

Is he going to copy Jake White in sending a “B-side” to contest the Tri-Nations matches in Sydney and Wellington and use his “A”-graders to score some early mind points over the Aussies and Kiwis in Durban and Port Elizabeth?

I thought John Plumtree gave something away when, shortly after meeting De Villiers, he spoke about “game time minutes” in Super Rugby, and not form, to be used as a selection tool for the Tri-Nations.

If I understood him correctly, those “A”-side Boks who played a lot of Super Rugby — you can name a dozen — will be “rested” for the away legs, and given time off for a week or two or attend Derick Coetzee’s special conditioning class.

White did the same in 2007, leaving 20 Boks behind for the Tri-Nations away leg.

So when does De Villiers reveal his hand? As you know, there will be only a short time between the completion of the Super Rugby competition and the Boks’ departure to Sydney.

Will results on that trip be important or will defending the Webb Ellis Cup be the only issue on the agenda for the national coach?

During the recent launch of Castle as the new sponsor of Tri-Nations, a lot was said about fielding the strongest teams, but which is the right way to go? De Villiers does not take defeat well in his post-match speeches and knowing the coach the way I do, he would hate to arrive in New Zealand to defend the World Cup with two losses in the away leg of the Tri-Nations.

But then he might see the bigger picture and bite his lip if he takes a “B”-side and loses. Then again, looking at the possibilities of such a team, I was not that sure that even a Bok side without its top 20 will be that bad and not competitive.

He could use that trip to get Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn in southern hemisphere shape again.

If I were De Villiers I would send players like Schalk Brits on that trip and even give the likes of Joe van Niekerk and Heinke van der Merwe a run. He has nothing to lose by giving some European-based players a chance.

Taking current game time and resting players into account, I would pick the following team to play in the first Tri-Nations Test: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Lionel Mapoe (if fit), 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Danie Rossouw, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 BJ Botha/Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.

None of these players has been overplayed so far and the European-based players would have had a decent break. Most of these players, I believe, would come close to the final 30 anyway and will be very competitive.

I have another suggestion to the national coach as well.

How about picking a backline looking like this: Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Adrian Jacobs, Juan de Jongh, Odwa Ndungane, Elton Jantjies and Ricky Januarie? Can you imagine the brownie points the coach can score in certain sectors of society?

Come to think of it, picking that backline could land him a job somewhere if we fail to defend the Cup.

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