Our Springbok team of 2013

Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie and Morné Steyn (AFP)
Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie and Morné Steyn (AFP)
Cape Town - If only all selection meetings were so straightforward ... a trio of Sport24 wise men required a mere five minutes or so to determine the most fitting Springbok team from the 2013 season.

GALLERY: Sport24's Bok XV of 2013

Keeping the panel to a tight three (two fairly conveniently outvote one in a democracy, you see!), this writer plus fellow-staffers Garrin Lambley and Herman Mostert very quickly agreed over as many as 12 positions in the Bok XV, strictly based around performance in each spot by players employed by coach Heyneke Meyer during the largely successful Test campaign that saw all comers but the All Blacks beaten.

It was up to each individual in the panel to decide how long they considered “reasonable exposure” in every slot to have been, so it was largely on those grounds that minor differences of opinion were experienced.

The only areas of contention, then, were fullback and right wing (where of course common denominator Willie le Roux had plenty of game-time in each jersey during the year, even if all of us agreed he simply had to be a starter for this side, regardless of position) and tighthead prop.

Garrin preferred Le Roux to wear No 14, with the versatile and near-constant 2013 match-day squad player Pat Lambie getting his nod for the last line of defence, and JP Pietersen missing out on the grounds that he only rejoined the Bok set-up this year for the European tour at season’s end.

But he was eventually outvoted by both of the other two “selectors”: Herman and I felt we saw enough from known game-breaker Pietersen, now based in Japan, to justify his inclusion in a back three instead featuring Le Roux at fullback and Bryan Habana on the left wing.

Speaking of Japan, we all murmured just a bit over the credentials of veteran Jaque Fourie at No 13 - JJ Engelbrecht played more games there, including some pretty incisive ones - before the “class is permanent” factor coaxed us to go for Fourie anyway; he seemed to get sharper as the Euro venture wore on.

Our feeling was that Engelbrecht, while younger and likely to only get wiser and better, remains a less complete player at this stage and still carries a hint of defensive insecurity.

It was plain sailing in all other positions, including seven members of the pack ... until we hit some dissent at No 3.

There Herman felt that despite his short-lived exposure on the end-of-year tour (until he got crocked himself), young Frans Malherbe deserved the nod ahead of veteran incumbent Jannie du Plessis, who did not go to Europe due to injury.

His argument was that the Sharks stalwart is “a bit inconsistent” in the scrums and too often collapses them.

“He is also a liability in general play, with defence a glaring weakness.”

But Garrin and this writer stuck - decisively in vote-count terms - with Du Plessis, believing that we have not quite seen enough yet from Malherbe and converted loosehead Coenie Oosthuizen to warrant either of them eclipsing him yet.

We believe relatively few readers would pick major holes with our final selection; remember that it is not a subjective “dream team” by any of us, but completely based on evidence from players the Bok coach deemed fit to represent the country at various stages of 2013.

This, then, is the Sport24 Bok team of the year:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
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