With the World Cup you never know!

2015-09-02 06:00

A QUICK glance at the Springbok team, tasked with bringing back home South Africa’s third Rugby World Cup – the tournament starting in England just three weeks from now – will tell you that only six players have never scored a point at Test level.

An even quicker glance will reveal that just one player has never appeared at this top level of the sport. He is Blue Bulls scrumhalf, Rudy Paige, generally deemed the luckiest selection in the 31-member squad. He’s deemed specially lucky to have been chosen ahead of fellow-Bulls player and scrumhalf, Francois Hougaard or Cobus Reinach of the Sharks, both of whom have worn the Green and Gold at the highest level many times.

Either, it seems likely, would have been the choice of most followers of the game as third in line for this most important of positions – the player who forms the cement that joins the forwards to the backs in the No. 9 jersey.

Let’s not pay too much attention to the fact that Paige is a player of colour – which in South African rugby at the moment is a major bone of contention. Let’s rather hope that coach Heyneke Meyer, who is closely connected with players who hail from the Bulls’ camp, has purely rugby reasons for this decision.

Unhappily, however, no matter which way one looks at it, this state of affairs is most unlikely to be entirely true. The pity in this case, as in all similar cases is that selection along these lines can never be truly right or honest. Which is why Meyer was unable to explain satisfactorily why Paige was preferred, at least as far as Hougaard was concerned. All he would say was “a guy like Paige has played really well in Super Rugby this year.” As regards Reinach, Meyer said, it had to be taken into account that he had been injured much of the season.

However, let’s move on with the hope, too, that if Paige is called upon to show his worth on the field of play, that he comes through the test with flying colours. There are always unlucky contenders in the selection of national teams, who don’t manage to make the cut. Two more who spring to mind are flankers Marcell Coetzee and Heinrich Brussow. But a World Cup played over almost a month can throw up all sorts of concerns in terms of injury – and who knows what could yet happen?

Perhaps the most intriguing of all the selections could arise yet from the possible veteran halfback pairing of Fourier du Preez and Morne Steyn. The latter, now playing all his rugby for Stade Francais in France, has scored more points for the Boks – 688 – than any of his rivals for the flyhalf berth.

Well, there you have it. Can the Springboks pull off a third World Cup? Kitch Christie’s team were favoured in the country’s first attempt after returning from isolation. Nor did they seem to have a chance under the tutorage of coach Jake White.

So, why not? Go, Bokke, go!

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