With the game looming tomorrow a lot is being said of inclusions and exclusions and expectations. I felt I would give my opinion on the possible strengths and weaknesses the Boks have in their armour and how it could impact the game. Let’s start with the glass half full and talk about our obvious strength… the forwards.
When it comes to the front row the Boks should have the upper hand against the Irish. In Beast and Jannie we have two of the best props in their respective positions in world rugby. They stood up amicably to the All Blacks and even managed to dominate them. Adriaan Strauss was always my concern but he has found his feet quite quickly and has really produced some good games in the green and gold. However Bismarck will always be missed.
In the tight five our only “weakness” is the locks. I use weakness in inverted commas because Etzebeth has proved he is, at 20, already a world leader at 4 and Juandré Kruger is a great lineout man. The only short-coming I can see is Juandré’s “lack” of physicality. His he gets stuck in but doesn’t have the weight of the bigger men. Even though that is the case he is a very mobile lock with plenty of potential.
In the loosies we have a great balance. Louw being able to impose himself at the breakdown has really allowed Alberts to be freed up to do his crash balling best. With Vermuelen being able to play towards the ball and fill the 8th man role admirably I can’t see these guys taking a step back against the Irish. We should dominate on the ground and thus have plenty of ball to play with.
Having Pienaar at scrumhalf and Lambie at flyhalf can only bode well for the Boks. Pienaar knows the Irish conditions very well and he has good decision making abilities. Lambie probably has one of the coolest and calmest heads on a rugby field and his decision making is also usually spot on. His kicking out of hand is good and gets good distance, his defence is excellent and his attacking prowess is good.
At centre is where our biggest weakness lies at the moment. Jean has not had a good season and he has a bit of an injury cloud hanging over his head. Taute I rate highly as a player but not so highly as a centre. He was exposed against the All Blacks. Keith Earls and the boys have obviously seen this and have no doubt decided to exploit this. Hopefully it will be better come this Saturday.
In the back three we have a bit of a toss up. JP is an obvious choice and before his injury he was in sublime form. Zane and Hougaard are my odd ones out. Zane has been a solid performer but just like Morné he offers nothing special. He is not the kind of guy that can pull a rabbit out of a hat when needed. Hougaard has had a shocking time behind the scrum. His move to the wing hasn’t been invigorating either. He clearly lacks confidence but he is a player that has the ability to pull a rabbit out of every nook and cranny on the field… but is it enough to warrant inclusion above Mvovo? I personally don’t think so and would have preferred Hougaard on the bench as an impact player.
When it comes to the bench a few things worry me. Schalk Brits above Chiliboy. Yes Chiliboy has come off an injury and Schalk knows the environment. But does he know the Bok environment? CJ van der Linde I have never rated as a quality national player, never mind international player. I would have gone with Guthro and Cilliers as cover because we all know Guthro CAN scrum. Flip has been getting better and better as a lock and I hope it carries on. Marcel Coetzee is one of those players that basically picks himself. But what Meyer is doing to the boy seems criminal. He is not a player that plays towards the ball. It is not his natural inclination and it cannot be coached because it will be a detriment to the rest of his game. Fetchers are born, not bred.
Morné Steyn… I have never been a supporter and will never be. I feel his role on the bench will be a huge one. I truly believe Meyer will sub Lambie early to get his darling on the field. My biggest concern is when we play catch-up rugby. Will Morné be able to produce then? Will he be able to get a back line going when we need a try to win it? I have my reservations, yet miracles do happen.
Juan de Jongh is an unlucky Bok in my opinion and I would have started him at 13. Yet he is an able replacement. All I wonder is if it will be at 12 or 13. Jean is an injury worry and Juan has been training at 12 all week. I am not so sure about Juan at 12 just as I am not sure about Taute at 13. Mvovo is also an unlucky starter in my opinion but at least he is on the bench. Hopefully Meyer gives him a run on this weekend.
When it comes to the squad picked for the tour a few things bother me. First and foremost we don’t have a quality tighthead backup for Jannie. We also don’t have quality lock cover. We don’t have adequate cover for Jean as almost all the other centres and “centres” cover 13. Lambie can cover 12 if pushed but why did Meyer not take another 12 with on tour? These are our biggest weak points… is poor planning to blame?