Missed opportunity, I’d say so…

2015-09-18 07:23

Heading into a World Cup, no coach could ever satisfy a whole nation with every single selection made. Selections are usually based on form, potential, versatility, experience and leadership skills.

Obviously Heyneke Meyer disappointed some fanatics with the absence of Brussow, Kriel, Serfontein, Jantjies, Reinach and Mapoe just to name a few, but generally he got it spot on. The squad only makes provision for 31 players and the mere fact that some guys ought to count themselves unlucky to miss out, is an exclamation of the depth South African Rugby has. However, what bamboozles me is Heyneke Meyer’s player and squad management…

I’m not too fond of fishing, but whenever I get the opportunity to go out with the lads and have a couple of cold ones next to the fishing waters I jump at it. The wife probably thinks I’m the worst fisherman ever but what she doesn’t realise, is that I’m not in any way interested in the fishing, but rather I keep myself busy with the “tjopping” and “dopping”, the braaing and the laughing. If there is a piece of meat on the grill and a cold one in my hand I am in absolute heaven. To top it all, I receive some TLC from the Mrs, as she would like to compensate the poor fisherman for his lack in success. As a man, I'd say opportunity well and truly taken, which brings me to my dilemma concerning the Springboks’ starting 15 against Japan…

No team or opposition is to be underestimated, especially in a World Cup, but there is some flaws in other teams that one has to use as an advantage. It takes no Einstein to figure out that Japan is in no way as physical as Samoa, and that Japan offers you a great opportunity to play attacking rugby from set pieces that ought not to be under such immense pressure. Playing Japan in the first round also generates the opportunity to settle in tournament winning combinations which should have been done by now. The Springboks lack a proper 9/10 combo, and with our leader of the pack out with injury, he might be a disruption to the centre field combination when making his return. Damien de Allende and Jessie Kriel seemed to gel quite well in the midfield and brings forth some promise for the future, and a combination I would have liked to keep intact.

When referring to poor player management, our props could be used as a prime example. Jannie and Beast is seriously overplayed and I would have reckoned that the game against the Japanese would be ideal to play the lads better rested. Rather introduce your players coming off injury like Duane Vermeulen and Fourie du Preez back into action against a less physical side, and not against the Samoans who we all know embraces the rough stuff. Schalk Burger is another player who had to perform duty for 80 minutes in all 3 of the Rugby Championship games, along with the last test against Argentina. Schalk is one of the older players in the squad and one we ought to manage a lot better, considering that he covers all three positions in the loose trio. Schalk could make a significant contribution from the bench in the second 40, when the Boks should be in a comfortable lead. Avoiding unnecessary injury is unfortunately a necessity and Wales could surely testify.

Handre Pollard certainly had his off day during the Rugby Championship, but so did our whole pack of forwards, not to mention Ruan Pienaar. Continuity in Pollard would have had him growing in confidence and playing with the master on his inside supporting him, who knows…

No one really knows in what form Fourie du Preez is, but for Meyer to stick with him we could only assume that Fourie still has the goods and I can’t wait to see what a inform Fourie du Preez does for the performance of a young talented Handre Pollard. Personally I can only see Pollard flourishing in that combination.

Zane Kirtchner proved against Argentina that Heyneke Meyer  has reason to have faith in his abilities, and ultimately justifies his inclusion, but once again I would have preferred a quicker, more running, less kicking fullback such as Willie le Roux or Patrick Lambie to face Japan. Zane will be perfectly suited for the Samoan game, but they bring different challenges to the table. Willie is in my opinion a much better rugby player than he is a fullback, and in saying so, I imply that against opposition with a well structured kicking game, Willie would be better off playing on the wing, entering the flyhalve channel as often as possible without the rest of the team dependant on him to cover the back. All that said, and with all due respect to Mr. Eddie Jones, I doubt that the Japanese consist of a kicking game capable of bringing the Bokke’s dreams and aspirations to an halt, and therefore I would have not gone with Kirchner for our round one opener.

My final question towards Heyneke Meyer’s starting 15 is Jean de Villiers’ starting position. De Villiers is a capable player and a phenomenal leader, and I don’t question his inclusion, but I would have loved to see the midfield combination of De Allende and Kriel to continue. Though Jean has lost a heck load of speed, he has played on the wing for South Africa more times than I can care to remember and I believe he has the experience not to let the team down. It’s easier to compensate speed on the wing and this will also give Jean a head start on regaining some lost form and confidence.

The World Cup has become a marathon and is in no way a sprint. Our preparation prior to    the WC was mostly due to injury not that great and we need this game to fine tune our combinations. I have no question that HM’s Springboks will run havoc against the Japanese and set up a comfortable margin, but I do fear that we have set our sights on Eddie Jones to such an extent that we have missed the bigger picture and ultimately the opportunity to run the inside lane…

utterrugbyrant@blogspot.com      

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