Bok skipper could face moment of truth

2015-07-15 06:00

THE good news is – there’s no bad news, not on the South African rugby front anyway. An almost flawless performance from the Springboks at Newlands in thrashing a so-called “World XV” 46-10 last weekend was spoilt somewhat by the fact that the Boks’ opponents were well below the class of what one might expect from a team so majestically named.

Ask former All Blacks lock Ali Williams. Great player that he once was, the New Zealander (now 36) was exhausted, totally out of it midway through the first half. This takes nothing away from an overall sparkling performance by Victor Matfield’s team – except this. The Boks, now in Brisbane, face the Wallabies on Saturday in a match that will be a much different kettle of fish. It’s their first international outing of what this year will be a shortened form of the Four Nations Rugby Championship, because of the World Cup starting in England in September. So it’s gloves off from now on – no more smiling faces, no more friendly pats on the back. It’s for real now.

However, from coach Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks’ point of view there was much to like about the trouncing of their opponents in conditions that weren’t all that easy. Perhaps topping the list in the 30 minutes he played would be the unscathed emergence of the Boks’ Test match captain, Jean de Villiers. Not only did the classy midfielder play a crucial role in one of the Springboks’ seven tries, but he also looked full of running and as solid as ever on defence.

Yet, here’s the thing, the centre partnership between Damian de Allende and young Jessie Kriel against the visitors was so sharp, so exhilarating, that it would be no surprise to see more of this combination as the international season progresses.

Admittedly, neither of that youthful pairing has the experience of De Villiers, who nonetheless seems always to be dogged by bad luck come World Cup time, causing him to miss both the 2003 and 2007 tournaments. After injury against Wales last November that required full knee reconstruction surgery, it seemed the popular Western Province hero would again miss out on a World Cup tournament. But typically he fought back. In a recent interview he said of this: “Looking up at the Cardiff night I thought I don’t want to end it this way. I decided there and then that if it was humanly possible I was going to make it to the 2015 World Cup.”

Strengthening his resolve was an article in the SA Rugby magazine quoting a doctor saying De Villiers was a “lost cause”. That made him all the more determined. But in typically forthright fashion, the Bok captain (now 34) has emphasised that if at any stage – by this one gathers he means in the World Cup itself – he should feel “I’m not up to scratch, I’d happily stand aside.” Whichever way De Villiers decides to play it, it’ll be to the benefit of his country. “South Africa first” is his chief concern.

ANYONE who thought Bangladesh were cricket’s pushovers were brought to earth by their crushing seven-wicket defeat of the Proteas last Sunday. The Bangladeshi victory levelled the ODI series at 1-1.

FINALLY we were all there at Wimbledon ... well, actually at the members-only pub across the way from Summerstrand beachfront, glued to the TV and rooting for Roger Federer to win the men’s singles final – the reason being that one of us once met Roger’s SA-born mother in a supermarket queue. When Novak Djokovic won, we gave the pool to the barman, who gave it back to us in drinks. So, ja ... cheers!

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