Well Meyer has definitely picked a well balanced team to take on Italy this weekend. I was reading Tank Lanning’s column and he seems a bit worried about centre and a lot worried about tighthead. I can understand that and it is probably true, but I do not quite agree.
I do like the look of the back three. Habana and Basson should be great under the high ball. Not sure about Willie because he has never really played at fullback but I am pretty sure he can handle it.
If Jean is fit then great for the Boks. If not then it isn’t a train smash either, as I am pretty sure that if Serfontein takes his place we won’t be the worse for wear. Sure we lose a lot of experience in Jean but Serfontein will have Morné on his inside and the fact that Serfontein and JJ having been gelling very well at the Bulls can only be a boon for the Boks. Added to that is the fact that we do have an inform Ebersohn that will be on the bench as well as Lambie that can cover the inside channel effectively. So at centre I am not as worried as Tank.
Our halfback combo is my real concern when it comes to depth. Jano has been playing well and kudos for the start. Hopefully he’ll grow and he also offers a better kicking game than Hougaard. Pienaar should be a shoe-in for the Rugby Championship so I am happy that Meyer is giving Jano a start before Hougaard. Hougaard is however my concern. His rugby hasn’t been the best in a while now. He is more consistent but not his usual expressive self. Someone like Piet van Zyl or even McLeod would have been a better backup at this stage. But then again Hougaard does offer versatility as a wing, however I feel that those bases are covered in the squad.
My other concern is Spies. Yes he has been playing some decent rugby but when games get tight he still has a tendency to disappear. So against Italy, Samoa and maybe Scotland he should flourish but he is still vulnerable in tighter games. I would have liked to see Arno Botha get a go from the back for this game because at 8 we don’t seem well stocked.
With the flanks I have no real complaints except maybe that besides Louw, no-one else plays to the ball as much and isn’t all that effective. Maybe Brussow or even someone like Deon Fourie would not have been bad back up. But then who do you drop to accommodate another fetcher?
At lock we also seem a little thin. With Bekker’s departure there now seems to be a big void at 5. I am not a big supporter of Juandré but hopefully he comes good but I would have preferred Franco above Juandré. And Steph-du Toit is a great player but my verdict is still out on whether he is our answer at 5. For this game and future tests I would have loved to see Etzebeth and van den Merwe as Lock partners with Etzebeth taking over at 5.
Tank feels we are a bit short on proper tightheads. I feel Adriaanse will be up for the challenge but Tanks’ main concern is for Saturday’s bench against Italy. Meyer has picked two looseheads basically in Nyakane and Oosthuizen. Tank feels Oosthuizen isn’t cut out for tighthead. I disagree and I’m sure he could become world class if given time.
At hooker the Boks are blessed. Strauss and Chiliboy have been playing great rugby and Bismarck is almost back from injury. Add to that a Tiaan Liebenberg as backup (though not in the squad) and we should have enough quality depth.
So all in all my biggest concern is Spies, followed by a real lack of depth at lock.
The Bok team:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Reserves: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.