Here’s a way to fix things

2015-08-05 06:00

THEY ruled the fictional roost quite some time ago, admittedly – but what Springbok rugby needs right now is the problem-solving brain of a Slim Callaghan or a Lemmy Caution. Who are these fellows?

The first was an English private detective with a weakness for Irish whiskey, 50 plain cigarettes a day and strongly attracted to beautiful women, preferably blondes. The second, an American former secret service agent, with all the above weaknesses, preferred brunettes, if memory serves correctly.

They were created by novelist Peter Cheyney, and at posh boys’ boarding schools, the novels had to be hidden under the mattress of your dormitory bed or the house-master, discovering them, would confiscate these most readable novels and feed on them himself.

All of this – would you believe? – is apropos of a somewhat tricky problem facing national coach, Heyneke Meyer, as the Rugby World Cup, starting in England in September, draws near. There are two schools of thought, the first belonging to those who refuse, at any price, to relinquish the talents of Jean de Villiers or Victor Matfield. They aver that without these two stalwarts the Boks can kiss goodbye the dream of winning a third World Cup.

The pro-Matfield/De Villiers’ school of thought – both have captained the Boks let’s not forget – cite the pair’s vast experience: the wily ways and lineout skills of big Victor and the all-round ability of centre Jean and his calming influence on players around him.

Firstly, what else does Matfield do other than excel at the lineout these days? Let’s not forget, too, he’s now in his late 30s. Let’s therefore answer that question more directly. Are his lineout skills, these days, any better than those of Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit?

We will know more about De Villiers’ readiness for a return to the big-time, after this Saturday’s Four Nations Rugby Championship clash with Argentina in Durban. By all means let’s see what De Villiers can produce at Kings Park. But why, just when it’s starting to blossom, why disturb the exciting emergence of the new youthful centre paring of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel? The two have shown in their outings together the emergence of a pairing of the class of John Gainsford and Mannetjies Roux. Given more time together these two could be every bit as good.

So here’s a start towards a solution: include Jean de Villiers as your 31st player, also backline manager-coach. Include Matfield as a non-playing forwards’ adviser to head-coach, Meyer. QED!

HE may have had many faults – don’t we all? He may not have seen the wood for the trees as regards SA cricket’s transformation. But Clive Rice, who died last week of cancer, aged 66, will be remembered as one of South African cricket’s greatest talents. Paying tribute last week former SA cricket captain, Ali Bacher, said of Rice’s immense talent: “Clive was the fiercest competitor I knew. He would have held his own in any era, such was his strength of mind. Defeat never entered it. Go well, old friend.”

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