The 2011 Tri-Nations is not unlike 2007, but there is still a chance to salvage our pride

2011-08-06 00:00

DO you believe in déjà vu? Ever had that feeling that you have seen it all before? Well, that was what I was hoping for two weeks ago when we played the Wallabies with our so called “B” team.

I was hoping, of course, that the guys could pull off something similar to what they achieved in 2007, when our team of “no-hopers” took on the Wallabies while around 20 of Jake White’s first choice players were getting knocked into shape by Derick Coetzee.

Back then, the Bob Skinstad-led Boks jumped into a 17-0 lead, but lost out to a determined Aussie outfit in the end, 25-17.

This time around, though, there was no fairytale and the Boks were totally outplayed by the guile and skill of halfback pairing Quade Cooper and Will Genia.

Fast forward to Wellington, or as was the case in 2007, to Christchurch.

Again, expecting déjà vu, this time I almost had it! In 2007, the Boks lost 33-6, in 2011 they lost 40-7.

Pretty much as expected then.

Not so. In 2007 we were minutes away from a shock win in Sydney and in Christchurch, and only two late tries by the All Blacks saw them disappear into the distance.

To put it simply, the “B”-sample of 2007 proved to be much better than the “B”-sample of 2011.

I suppose the All Blacks and Wallabies were also better this time around.

The Wallabies were still smarting from their defeat to Samoa a week before and the All Blacks had Fiji the week before to get rid of the cobwebs.

As a matter of interest, here is the team that played the Wallabies back in 2007:

15 Bevin Fortuin, 14 Breyton Paulse, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Bob Skinstad, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Wikus van Heerden, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Gary Botha, 1 CJ van der Linde. The replacements were 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Eddie Andrews, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Jacques Cronjé, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Jaco Pretorius.

Skinstad was injured and returned home after Sydney, so White made a couple of changes to the side that travelled south to Canterbury.

That side looked like this:

15 JP Pietersen, 14 Breyton Paulse, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jaco Pretorius, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jacques Cronjé, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Wikus van Heerden, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Albert van den Berg, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 CJ van der Linde. The replacements were 16 Gary Botha, 17 Eddie Andrews, 18 Gerrie Britz, 19 Hilton Lobberts, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Tonderai Chavhanga.

Of those players Wynand Olivier, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Bob Skinstad, Wikus van Heerden, Johann Muller, Albert van den Berg, Gary Botha and CJ van der Linde made the original World Cup squad. Bismarck du Plessis made it as a last-minute replacement for Pierre Spies and Jannie du Plessis replaced BJ Botha in the latter stages of the tournament after Botha had suffered a knee injury.

Pietersen used his chances well and ended up as first-choice wing, while Van der Linde started in the final as tighthead. Van Heerden, Pienaar and the Du Plessis brothers all made the bench for the final.

There is no real reason, looking at the two groups, to see why the 2007 team played so much better.

The 2011 crop have players there that will play many Tests still for South Africa. The likes of Gio Aplon, Lwazi Mvovo, Bjorn Basson, Juan de Jongh, Jean Deysel, Gerhard Mostert, Dean Greyling and Chiliboy Ralepelle will make the Bok 22 in most of the Bok teams leading into the 2015 Rugby World Cup and will be much better for the experience.

I would therefore not dismiss the Tri-Nations tour as an outright failure. Yes, it was disgraceful to lose by huge margins, and, let me tell you, I can’t recall ever being so angry and frustrated at the same time during the All Blacks press conference after the Wellington Test match.

To see the smirking Steve Hansen joking about the Bok effort was not nice, believe me. I wanted to punch him so badly!

Of course, we will have our chance for redemption in Port Elizabeth in two weeks’ time and then, hopefully, for laughing last and hardest in Auckland after the semi-final of the World Cup.

For the World Cup, let’s not expect déjà vu, let us demand it!

I was just wondering about those poor souls who gave body and limb on that 2007 tour and failed to make the World Cup squad. Were their efforts ever rewarded? Did the World Cup bonus pie extend to all of those involved in 2007 or not?

I know there were only 30 medals, and they certainly did not get those. And in hindsight were they the unsung heroes of the 2007 glory?

And while they are now a disgraced and frowned upon group, maybe the “B” team of 2011 will also be remembered for what they did on those unhappy fields in Sydney and Wellington. But for that, the “A” team must show why they are seen as special.


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