There will be despair

2011-05-14 00:00

IT was interesting to see the final make-up of the Premier XV, a team that has been assembled from overseas-based players who will play the Kings in Port Elizabeth next month.

It seems that some of the first choice players that were invited, like Ruan Pienaar and Schalk Brits, had already agreed to play for the British Barbarians against Wales and England.

Others, like Michael Claassens, were not given permission by their clubs due to a long season, while Neil de Kock will undergo surgery while Gerrie Britz has indicated that he just needed a break from rugby.

Among those who agreed to play were Brent Russell and Pedrie Wannenburg, two of the unluckiest players of their time never to have gone to a Rugby World Cup.

Both were in the mix with two coaches and their World Cup campaigns, but neither Rudolph Straeuli nor Jake White had them in their final 30 that travelled to Australia and France respectively.

Russell was sensational when he arrived on the international scene in 2002, but unfortunately picked up an injury close to the World Cup and did not recover in time.

Back then Straeuli indicated that he was not going to risk taking injured players Down Under, due to lessons learnt from the 1999 campaign when Bobby Skinstad was picked while not fully fit.

Wannenburg of course was in fine form in 2003, but missed out on final selection for no particular reason. Rumour had it that the captain at the time, Corné Krige, did not like Wannenburg at all and influenced Straeuli not to pick the flank.

White’s preference for bigger players was always going to have an impact on his picking Russell and the blonde pocket rocket featured only as a fringe player and substitute.

Wannenburg probably lost out to Wikus van Heerden or Skinstad in 2007 and featured in White’s team right up to the 2007 Tri-Nations.

Sadly for Wannenburg, who played in 20 Tests, and Russell, who has been capped 23 times, the World Cup for them was not to be.

Any chance of their having an exceptional game in Port Elizabeth (Peter de Villiers will be attending) and giving the Bok coach some food for thought?

I suppose one will have to wait and see, but Wannenburg fits the bill of what De Villiers likes in a loose forward and with Juan Smith still in doubt, the Ulster player could be a serious contender, despite the depth we have in the loose forward department.

We probably will have to wait and see how Russell goes, as he has been picked mainly as a wing at Clermont.

The fact that Gio Aplon can be seen as a younger, faster version of Russell will probably mean that the French-based player will not be picked.

Looking at those two got me wondering who will be “the unlucky ones” to miss out in 2011.

Let us first pen down the certainties.

Gurthrö Steenkamp and Beast Mtawarira are the incumbent looseheads, so Coenie Oosthuizen will be the big loser.

With John Smit made captain and Bismarck du Plessis SA’s best hooker, a third hooker will probably be a toss-up between Chiliboy Ralepelle and Adriaan Strauss. Schalk Brits, Gary Botha, Deon Fourie, Bandise Maku and Tiaan Liebenberg will miss out.

Jannie du Plessis and CJ van der Linde seem to be favourites for the number three jersey, with BJ Botha and Brian Mujati the other serious contenders and someone like Werner Kruger missing out.

At lock, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Andries Bekker and Flip van der Merwe will be shoo-ins, with Danie Rossouw probably picked as a utility forward.

If Smith is fit, he will be joined by Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brussouw and Pierre Spies. Between Willem Alberts, Deon Stegmann, Keegan Daniel, Ryan Kankowski, Francois Louw, Wannenburg, Dewald Potgieter and Ashley Johnson, there will be despair.

Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard and Ruan Pienaar will be certainties at scrumhalf, as will Morné Steyn at No 10, with Patrick Lambie, Peter Grant, Butch James and Elton Jantjies fighting it out for the second spot.

Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie and Juan de Jongh seem to be pencilled in as the preferred midfield, with Wynand Olivier and Adrian Jacobs probably fighting for one spot.

On the wing, Bryan Habana, Bjorn Basson, JP Pietersen and Gio Aplon will probably get the nod, but what about Lwazi Mvovo, Lionel Mapoe and Odwa Ndungane?

Frans Steyn and Zane Kirchner will be the fullbacks, so no Conrad Jantjes or Louis Ludik.

It is clear that there are going to be some very unlucky players come August and the final squad announcement.

The knowledge that they are not alone could be some solace to Russell and Wannenburg.

Fact is, there were others before them and there will be others in World Cups to come.

— Sport24.

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