Heyneke Meyer announced his Springbok squad to start the Rugby Championship against the Argentinian Pumas in the first two tests. Andries Bekker and Siya Kolisi made it into the squad that doesn't really differ much from the one he selected for the England series. One may wonder where Wynand Olivier and Ryan Kankowski is, but it has been made clear that because of their move to Japan they will not be in the Springbok mix. Here is the squad of 30 that Meyer has opted for:
Backs: JJ Engelbrecht, Francois Hougaard, Zane Kirchner, Morne Steyn and Jano Vermaak (Bulls), Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen and Francois Steyn (Sharks), Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers, capt (Stormers), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster/NIR)
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Dean Greyling, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Jacques Potgieter, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Pierre Spies (Bulls), Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi (Stormers), Pat Cilliers (Lions), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs)
The team as a whole looks good and the Pumas will have their work cut out for them if they think they can beat the Springboks. But like with his first squad announcement in May this year, I still have my doubts about some of the players selected. Zane Kirchner is definitely not the best fullback in SA rugby at the moment. Louis Ludik would have been my choice at fullback and Jaco Taute would not be far behind. Morne Steyn has had a really bad season and he is blowing hot and could. When his goal kicking is off, his general play also seems to suffer. Unfortunately we don't really have a fit fly half other than Morne in SA at the moment. Peter Grant is on his way back to Japan.
The forwards doesn't have me worried, but again one or two of the players can feel lucky that they have made it. Flip vd Merwe has not really impressed this season and Franco vd Merwe might have been a better choice. We also have Anton Bressler and Alister Hargreaves that can cover the lock position. How Chilliboy gets the nod above a Tiaan Liebenberg is a question only Meyer can answer. Andries Bekker back from injury but not at 100% yet. This can cost us like it did the Stormers in the Semi-final. And then there is Pierre Spies. Joshua Strauss in my view is a better choice, but Meyer has his reasons. And as i have already stated, the team in a whole is a strong team.
The biggest worry is injury and already, JP Pietersen has been ruled out with a thumb injury. Juan de Jongh has been called up to the squad to cover at centre. Chilliboy has gone down injured and then there is Eben Etzebeth who has been sent for a scan on a hip injury. Meyer mentioned that he might be looking at recalling Bakkies Botha to the squad if Etzebeth will not be fit. He has also eluded that he might look at Franco vd Merwe. The latter is a better option for me and it might be worth his while to look at the Sharks' Bressler and Hargreaves.
Botha is already way past his prime and at 33 it will truly be a short-term fix. Franco at 29 might not be the answer either but at least it is one that will last a bit longer. The Sharks locks is an option that can sustain the Lock position for so much longer and with the ey on 2016 will give them experience.
Meyer made it clear that he wants to win every test match from the start and this is not a bad thing. He must however remember that 4 years is a short period and before we know it the World Cup will be here. Rather have young talented players play for the Springboks now and lose a game here and there, but they gain experience, than come the world cup and there are no players with experience. It seem that every time a player is injured Meyer wants to look at the old guard to come and save the day. First it was talk of Victor Matfield coming in to captain the Boks for this year, then it was Fourie du Preez and now Bakkies Botha.
I do understand that Meyer worked with these players for a very long time when he coached the Bulls, but it might be time for him to move on from that period of his life. It was 5 years ago and we are not looking back, but looking forward. I have nothing against Bakkies, Victor or Fourie it is just that their time has come and gone, it is time for the new generation to take us to 2016 and beyond. My advice to Meyer is: "Stop following the players that used to play for you and has left to retire or play overseas. Start watching rugby in South Africa as we have the young talent need. Give them the opportunities now and let them gain the experience now."
As always this is just my view...........................................
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