Boks face their moment of truth

2015-08-26 06:00

HERE’S a funny thing: funny peculiar, that is – not funny ha-ha. Indeed, the last thing it is with the Rugby World Cup in England just a month away, is the funny tickle you get from wandering fingers in your armpits.

So, try this for size. With injuries playing havoc with a large number of near-certainties for rugby’s major international showpiece, about the only sure bets for the Springboks are at the heart of the scrum – the solid front-row of brothers, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, and Tendai Mtawarira.

Not even the couplings at halfback and in midfield can be entered as certainties on the Bok team. Because of injuring surrounding veteran scrumhalf, Fourie du Preez, still recuperating from injury, the key halfback combination at the moment would have to go to Ruan Pienaar and Handre Pollard.

Some, of course, especially those residing in KZN, would prefer Pat Lambie at flyhalf, but that’s another story – partly as fullback favourite, Willie le Roux, is also on the injury list and Lambie could well find himself a shoe-in for fullback!

Is the automatic pencilling in of Jean de Villiers as captain and senior midfielder a certainty? By no means. He’s already incurred a new injury, for Pete’s sake. Anyway, the Boks really cannot turn their backs on the exciting, youthful midfield combination of Jessie Kriel and Damian de Allende. However this means on the other hand that without the injured JP Pietersen at right wing – his likely substitute at the moment is the Sharks speedster, Lwazi Mvovo – the Bok back division will be missing four regulars: at fullback, wing and both centres.

It gets even more complicated at forward. How many of the top eight, disregarding the aforesaid iron men of the front row, would be ready for the Boks’ first round clash with Japan – and how would the loss of the vital role of skipper (Jean de Villiers) be overcome? In most experts’ books the role of captain would go to Schalk Burger, simply on experience, with Willem Alberts certain to lead the loose-forward rampage. It’s a toss-up between Francois Louw (if fully fit) and Heinrich Brussow or Marcell Coetzee, if fit, for the remaining loose-forward birth.

Victor Matfield, despite his huge significance at lineout time, will no doubt make way for Lood de Jager as partner to the redoubtable Eben Etzebeth in the second row. So, in the cold light of day, the Springboks, if they want to oppose Japan with their best available combination – a good start is always a plus in a tournament such as the World Cup-would nonetheless have to take the field minus some eight of their best players. It sounds like “Disasterville”. But World Cups often bring out the best in players. Remember how Jake White’s team pulled off the country’s second World Cup triumph? Remember how the 20-year-old Francois Steyn came through that year when he was needed most? One thing is certain, when the chips are down Springbok supporters can count on the lads in green and gold to produce something special – the very best they are capable of.

NOT a good week for cricket, was it? Oh, what a pasting we got in the third and final ODI down Pretoria way. Can’t win ‘em all though, can we?

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