My Problem With The Meyer Philosophy

Well Meyer has picked his squad. A lot of people are happy with most of the picks, but a lot of people are also unhappy with some of the picks. It’s not surprising considering that Meyer has seemed to fall back on perceived favourites instead of some good young blood putting their hands up. Meyer seems hell bent on a philosophy of experience, even at the expense of form. That is the problem I mostly have with Meyer’s player selection and I am sure is why a lot of people are not entirely happy with the National coach.

Meyer has fallen back on stalwarts to help carry him to glory. Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, Guthro Steenkamp, Morné Steyn, Zane Kirchner and even old Victor Matfield. But what really irks me is that he still has the audacity to then proclaim that he has picked a team on merit. Let us go through these “merit” selections shall we?

Let us start with my most disliked selection, that of Zane Kirchner. This man has never offered anything influential in a Bok jersey. He has been dependable at best but has never been able to offer anything creative in his life. His play is largely (actually solely) based on kick now and never ask any other questions… just kick now… aimlessly. Majority of Bok supporters have never backed this man and rightly so. Yet Meyer persists. It’s almost like Pierre Spies all over again. So many young promising players are being held back because Meyer would rather pick a never was. Players like SP Marais, Lwazi Mvovo, Jaco Taute, Gio Aplon and even Jurgen Visser don’t get the chance to grow and mature for the Boks because even though they are playing form rugby (maybe not so much Taute who blows hot and cold and obviously Aplon who is injured) they will never get picked because Meyer doesn’t take a chance on them. This stunts there development in my point of few. This is how promising and exciting rugby players with huge potential end up becoming average players. The wind gets knocked out of their sails by a lack of faith in them.

There is no doubting the player that is Fourie du Preez. He showed his class last year when he came back. However when Ruan Pienaar gets picked when he has never really delivered on his promise for years now, it makes me very sad for up-and-comers. Someone like Cobus Reinach who has had a stellar season is constantly being overlooked even though he has been by far the best South African scrumhalf in the Super XV and one of the form scrumhalves out of all the teams. Reinach kicks are accurate, his passes sharp and fast and he has the ability to keep a defence guessing. Oh and he has pace. Why can’t he be an understudy to someone like Fourie instead of always picking the ever disappointing Ruan Pienaar or Francois Hougaard, or even Nic Groom or Piet van Zyl? It baffles me

Meyer I think sometimes lies to protect his own skin. He sounds a bit like Sanral sometimes. He says he has picked players on form but that is absolute bull, excuse the pun. Players, like Morné Steyn, Zane Kirchner and Guthro Steenkamp have not been playing great rugby overseas, and in the case of Morné not even good rugby. So why pick them? Experience? Please… just because the have experience doesn’t mean that they will always play great rugby. Instead of bringing Morné back he should have moved on to younger flyhalves. Yes he has picked Goosen, but another player like Kurt Coleman could have gained some much needed experience as an understudy to Francois Steyn and Goosen. What really irks me about the Morné Steyn selection is that come Rugby Championship you can almost bet your house on the fact that he will be first choice… even if he is playing crap rugby.

On the subject of Victor Matfield I am a bit split. A few months ago I would have said yip, especially after losing Peter-Steph du Toit. With the emergence of great 5 jumpers now I am not so sure we need Matfield any more. Stephen Lewies, Franco Mostert and the underrated Ruan Botha have all been playing some stellar rugby of late. There organizational skills might not be up there with Matfield’s yet but it isn’t usseless either. Imagine how they could grow if thrown into some international rugby. When you have young 20 something coming on to the scene who could take you to 2, maybe 3 world cups, why bank on a 37 year old who has to be wrapped in cotton just to make sure he lasts?

Now to go to a player who doesn’t deserve his time there yet was chosen because he “knows” Matfield. Callie Visagie has been picked for the Bok squad, and it definitely wasn’t on form. Meyer’s explanation… he knows Matfield. Just because he happens to chuck balls at Matfield during matches doesn’t make him a player good enough to be picked on form. Kyle Copper in the few minutes he gets every game has shown a lot more skill, tenacity, determination and class to be picked on form alone! Plus he is understudy to Bismarck!!! Arguably the world’s best hooker! So why pick Callie? If Meyer picks him because “he knows Matfield” then on that premise alone every forward in the Bulls pack should have been picked… including the reserves.

Meyer has picked some young blood in Serfontein, Engelbrecht, Schreuder (though I don’t know why) and a few others. Engelbrecht looked promising but it seems that when a game gets tightish he disappears. He has also not seemed anywhere near his best this year. Meyer has also managed to include S’bura Sithole and Juan de Jongh (his selection surprised me because Meyer is such a fan of “big” guys) so not all is completely lost when it comes to youthful choices. However the chances of the “young” brigade ever getting a chance and some much needed exposure all hinges on the fact that the oldies get injured and Meyer has no choice but to pick them.

Good luck to the Boks though. Seems we’ll need it because I don’t see these “old” men beating the All Blacks.

Bok Selection Time… Frontrow

Well another Super XV has come and gone for us Saffas. A disappointing one to say the least. The way the Bulls “threw” away the game against the Brumbies speaks volumes to what a crappy year it has been for South African rugby in particular. Let us hope that the Boks under Heyneke can give us some hope.

That being said it’s that time of year again when us couch coaches start making our predictions of Bok colours for the upcoming Rugby Championship. I hope Heyneke has been buoyed by the performances of form individuals and doesn’t bank on names again like he did last year. That being said, even though our teams have been dismal this year, save maybe the Cheetahs, some of our boys have been at the top of their game.

I know that Doc Craven has spoken about when he picks a team he picks a tighthead and a fullback first and then picks the rest. However, I don’t have the luxury of Doc’s talents so for today’s piece we will just start with the front row and in each position pick the best possible three in my opinion, and probably name one or two unlucky contenders.

So it’s off to loosehead first and in our country we are blessed with some pretty good loosehead talent. Fist and foremost on the list of Bok potentials is the ever green Tendai “Beast” Mtwarira. The Sharks loosehead has almost always been an automatic selection but I feel that being over-played has dulled him a bit. Of his strength and speed there is no doubt but where one was accustomed to bollocking runs from the big man it now almost seems like he is just huffing and puffing his way through a match. I would love to see him get a nice long holiday but for the Rugby Championship I’d still pick him. Second on my loosehead list would be Steven Kitshoff. The ginger-ninja from the Cape franchise has really impressed me and I feel he deserves a call up to the national squad and am kind of baffled as to why he hasn’t received one. My third loosehead choice is that irresistible gummi bear Trevor Nyakane. I was one of those supporters who whooped for joy when he crossed the white-wash for his first Springbok fiver. Nyakane has talent, of that there is no doubt… he is like the loveable fluffy toy with a mean streak. One can’t help but smile when he smiles but at the same time he lets his work on the field do the talking. JC Jansen van Rensburg would be my unlucky-to-miss-a-spot pick. The man has oodles of power and in my opinion is the strongest loosehead scrummager out of the lot. I pick the others above him purely for overall work rate.

Off to hooker now and here we are blessed in two of the world’s best. Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss. The dilemma of picking one is luckily not in my hands. But if I had to pick I would always go with Bismarck. He is strong, moves around the park and out of the two the best pilferer on the ground of opposition ball. There is very little to choose between the two and as such Bismarck’s raw strength if what sways me. Third in the line we have Chiliboy. He has been playing good rugby for the Bulls and is also a massive asset on the deck. However the other two are stronger and produce more in the loose in my opinion. However after these three there seems to be little depth in this country. One hooker who seems to have the potential is Kyle Cooper of the Sharks as well. However he is not there in terms of Bok honours just yet.

Tighthead is a position that seems to be causing a headache world wide. I blame the scrum laws. The laws seem to benefit a loosehead in the exchanges and that is why tightheads are becoming a rare and special breed. That being said Jannie has been a stalwart for the Boks for a long time now. He is like the energiser bunny but sooner or later the battery needs a recharge. He would be my first choice for the Rugby Championship and I think him, together with Beast deserve some time off at the End-of-year tours. Second in line for me as a tighthead would be Lourens Adriaanse. He has the potential and I feel he is our second best tighthead in the country at the moment. He has done well for the Cheetahs and deserves a shot. My third choice would be Coenie Oosthuizen. I wish they would settle on a position for the kid because buggering him around like the Cheetahs and Heyneke are doing is only going to turn him into another CJ van der Linde. Coenie has the potential to become one of the world’s great props… if they let him. My unlucky picks here are Wiehan Herbst whose form took a spectacular dive, Frans Malherbe who is more injured than not, Jacobie Adriaanse for leaving before show casing his true potential and then we have Brian Mujati of course. He is highly rated, even by Meyer… but no passport equals no play.

Next week I will be looking at the second row and exploring our particularly thin options in this department.

Springboks and Running Rugby. Who knew!

I know this post is late. I have been pretty busy this week. Haven’t had the time to write down my thoughts about the Boks vs Samoa game played on the weekend. So here I am at 5 in the morning taking a shot at it.

Let’s be honest, the Boks were ruthless. Our forwards were magnificent and our backs electrifying, even with Morné at the helm. It was a game of pace and controlled aggression, though a nut grab and a clothes line threatened to derail that.

The Samoans were physical and besides the little squeeze put on Strauss it was a game of mutual respect. Yes Tuilagi hit De Villiers with a stiff arm but I don’t think it was as intentional as the slow-mo replays would have us believe.

Our forwards were clinical and strong. Beast and Jannie were streets better than their last two performances. Yes it was against “weaker” scrummages but that part of their game wasn’t their only improvement. Jannie must be running on some kind of special lithium-ion battery because his work load the last two years has been huge. Together with Strauss they played their best game to date. Bismarck was given an extended run and the one part of his game where he is absolutely pivotal is his work as an extra “fetcher”. He is phenomenal on the ground when given half a chance. I just wish we could settle on a tighthead replacement for Jannie because Coenie is definitely not the answer.

I was glad to see a Flip and Etzebeth partnership, I just don’t know why Flip was played at 5 when Eben is more suited to it than Flip. Flip played a great game and I feel him and Eben as a partnership into the future is the way to go.

Flouw and Alberts delivered. Alberts put in some good hits and some good runs. But I am really worried about Spies. If the other two were so dominant how come did Spies once again hardly featured? Even Kolisi looked better in his short spell than Spies has through every game so far. Alberts really slotted in well at 8 and if Vermuelen ever gets injured I can see this as a possible solution, though I would love to have seen what Lappies Labuschagne or Philip van der Walt would have offered in the green-and-gold number 8 jumper.

Our halfback pairing had their best game in while. Pienaar read the game nicely and his service was crisper than against the Scots, though the spoiling tactics employed by the Scots did help in his poorer showing. Morné looked good again after looking a bit out of sorts against the Scots. I feel two factors made Morné look bad against the Scots. He played deeper in the Scotland game and the service provided by Pienaar was also not of the best. Against Italy and Samoa Morné took the ball a lot flatter and at pace. Plus it also helps that a guy like Willie slots in nicely at 10 to help with attacking impetus.

Jean and JJ seem to be working damn well as a centre pairing. JJ ever now and again does show his lapse in defence in the 13 channel but he is coming along nicely. He is strong and fast and with De Villiers supplying ball like he does things can only get better for JJ… hopefully.

Our back three were our real weapons in this game. Basson looks good but seems to have lost a bit of his high-ball skill. I’m hoping its just rustiness. Habana is looking more like the 2007 player of the year. His hands are good, his vision is better and he is backing his pace more. Nut the one who brings it all together for me is Willie le Roux. He is the reason our wings have space on the outside to play with. He reads a game so well. He almost always manages to suck in defenders and put the guy on his outside away or into a gap. If he doesn’t stay at 15 for the real tests then Meyer must be smoking his socks.

All in all it was a great game to watch after the so-so game served up by Scotland and Italy. The only real problem I had with these games is that Meyer never really once tried to see who his backup is. He never gave the other guys in the squad a chance to showcase their talents. He promised them game time and then in one week backtracked faster than an Aracnophobe seeing a spider.

Meyer will have to find a tighthead because Jannie can’t always go on forever and using Coenie as a stop gap in 10 minutes stretches has the potential of backfiring… especially in tighter games. So Meyer should have used this series to blood some new guys and answer some questions. He didn’t… I truly hope it doesn’t come back to bite him. Kudos to him though for getting rid of his kick-everything-you-receive game plan and playing a more attractive style this year. I mean 16 tries in 3 tests speaks for itself.

Is Meyer a Walking, Talking Contradiction?

Is Heyneke Meyer a walking-talking contradiction? Is he a human oxymoron? I think he is. Don’t get me wrong. I support him as a coach but just as Pieter de Villiers baffled me with odd and misplaced idioms so does Meyer confuse me with blatant lies and back tracking.

At the start of this quadrangular tournament Meyer spoke about giving the squad game time so that the players could grow so that we have a pool of 30 players to pick from that can stand up to the task of international rugby (in other words actually beat the All Blacks).

Has Meyer lived up to the words spoken by him? Hell no. He said he was going to give guys exposure and try different players and combination. None of that has materialised.

Our top players are overplayed. Jean de Villiers has been legend this year but he is carrying a niggle and should not even be considered for the game against the Samoans, yet Meyer is. The Beast and Jannie are playing on empty tanks but instead of letting them recharge their batteries Meyer is playing them into the ground.

If Meyer carries on like this then his idea of winning test matches will end in ruin. By “killing” the players he sees as his best it will adversely effect his chances of winning test matches. It was evident in the Scotland game. Yes the Scots used negative tactics but our “main” players also looked jaded and slow. There was a second half wake up but sooner or later there will be nothing left in the tank for there to be a second half wake up in the next game. Why risk Jean against the Islanders in the first place? Why risk two looseheads and why not seek a permanent backup for Jannie? Why not see what Lourens Adriaanse has in him?

Meyer has said that form was a reason for picking his squad. The majority of the rugby population were happy with his picks. Botha had a great game against the Italians and deserved his second start. He got injured and Kolisi came on and had a blinder of a game in a struggling Bok team. Yet for his effort he is dropped to the bench to make way for a guy who has hardly had any game time and is basically more injured than fit. Why does Spies get as many chances as he does even though he doesn’t prove himself week in and week out?

I think Meyer has placated the public in certain respects but still sticks to his perceived favourites at all costs. I am Sorry Meyer but this attitude is bound to blow up in your face. Strengthen your squad, don’t deplete it. Certain players need rest and certain players need much needed exposure. Keeping them back and burning up what you have will never end well.

In life those who gain much are those who risk much and those who gain little are those who risk little and play things safe. Rugby players are being overplayed and building a bigger squad is the way forward, not sticking to a happy few until they are broken and bleeding only for their replacements to be jaded and rusty when they are needed most.

Meyer Playing It Safe But At What Cost?

I understand continuity. But at the same time I understand the need for change when change is needed. I don’t think Meyer does.

Sometimes Meyer seems scared and he seems scared of losing. He has once again picked the same side bar one or two players. I’m sorry but I don’t see the sanity in this. Once again Meyer has the chance to blood youngsters with much needed game time come Rugby Championship and yet again he has failed to rest overplayed players.

It is more than clear that players like Jean, Beast, Jannie and Strauss need rest. They have been playing non-stop rugby this year. Jannie and Beast I feel are the ones who need it more than most. They have not been playing their best rugby by some way and really look jaded.

Guys like Lambie, Serfontein, Kolisi and co need as much exposure as possible and playing against the likes of Italy, Scotland and Samoa would have been ideal. De Villiers needs a break and can’t be expected to perform in an injured state! Yet Meyer has once again missed a trick. Come Rugby Championship time these players bar a few will have no more fuel left to take on the likes of the All Blacks. We shall once again be cannon fodder.

What I also find smacks of disappointment is that Kolisi is dropped for Alberts. Sure Alberts will give us much go forward ball and I like his inclusion. However, I don’t feel it should have been at the cost of Kolisi. I would have loved to have seen Kolisi perform at 8 for this game. We are short on quality eighth men in this country. We basically only have Vermuelen and Philip van der Walt in my opinion so blooding Kolisi or Botha would have made more sense in this tournament than giving Spies another go to fail miserably.

Spies has had ample opportunity over the years to showcase his potential and he hasn’t. He has been given more chance than any other player I can think of. He has never proven himself and I feel it is unfair to quality players like Kolisi, Botha, Labuschagne and Van der Walt that someone like Spies gets the amount of opportunities he does with nothing to show for it.

For this game I would have gone with players like Lambie, Serfontein, de Jongh, Labuschagne, Oosthuizen and Adriaanse. Give the guys the exposure, let them grow in stature. Meyer has proven more astute this year than last but I can’t help but feel he got this wrong!

The Springbok side to take on Samoa:

15. Willie le Roux, 14. Bryan Habana, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain) / Jan Serfontein, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Pierre Spies, 7. Willem Alberts / Siya Kolisi, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Flip van der Merwe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Juandre Kruger, 20. Siya Kolisi / Marcell Coetzee, 21. Piet van Zyl, 22. Pat Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein / Juan de Jongh

Kolisi and Jean deserve more

Saturday’s game against the Scots was definitely not something to write home about, but one thing that is was the fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude the Boks bounced back with. It was admirable and worthy of the shirt they wear.

It was a tough game with the Scots using spoiling tactics quite well with a ref who was obviously not to clued up on the game. Kudos to them… they played the ref well.

Not many players shone in the match for SA. Strauss had a good game but not his best. Etzebeth was by far the best tight five on the field. Kolisi was a monster, on defence and attack. Jean in my opinion the best back of the night.

I find it interesting that Jean is getting nailed by the media. I wouldn’t go so far as saying the public. Yes he has his doubters but so far this year he has been playing his best rugby. A lot of the public agree which is why I find it strange that the media keep on harping on about him. Has the Serfontein bug gotten that bad?

I know Serfontein is good, hell he’ll be great! But at the moment I wouldn’t drop De Villiers for him. Maybe move De Villiers to 13 because JJ showed his lack of defensive acumen during the Scotland game. He did improve in the second half but still, maybe wing is where he belongs.

The surprise of the Jean media frenzy too me though is overshadowed by the lack of media coverage surrounding Kolisi. The man had a brilliant game against the Scots. He was man of the match and it was well deserved. He won the collisions in the tackles and in his carries. He made more meters in that game than Spies has done in his career! Yet hardly anything is being said.

The week before Arno Botha had a great game. It was in the media. There were ooo’s and aah’s about his game. They were well deserved. Yet here comes Kolisi and almost eclipses Botha’s performance (he eclipsed his loosie partners by a few miles) and Meyer only makes passing mention of his good game. He said more about Serfontein’s 8 minutes on the field than Kolisi’s 76 minutes. He even managed to praise JJ for coming right in the second half.

Now I know race is a contentious issue in this country and to me it has nothing to do with race. But Kolisi played one hell of a game and got the man of the match award. The other day in an article I read (think Rob Houwing) he was talking about ball bashing forwards needed for the Samoa game and says in that department Botha outshines Kolisi. Rubbish… to me they are on par. Kolisi is extremely strong and wins collisions just like Botha but Kolisi can also run around defenders and not just through them.

There was so much hype about Kolisi before the game. So much media coverage. Yet when he did perform it became nothing more than a mention and the Jean debate took centre stage.

I feel Kolisi deserved more and he will be getting it from me. Mr Kolisi, to you sir I raise my glass for a game well played. Your future looks bright and I hope you get another chance to showcase your talent. If Meyer doesn’t pick you at 6 or 7 then I hope to high Heaven that he drops Spies and plays you at 8!

Schreuder Pick Makes Little Sense

Last year Meyer made some crazy calls on player selection for the Boks. This year he seemed to have his head screwed on better. Well maybe it just looks like he is awarding form because most of the players he picked out of form last year are in form this year. But just as it seems Meyer is normal, he calls a certain Louis Schreuder as his third scrumhalf choice after the departure of Vermaak and Hougaard to injuries.

Kudos to Schreuder. Meyer obviously sees something in him, so do I, but I do have to question his selection. All the Stormers scrumhalves have been playing rather mediocre rugby this year, which is why I am not too surprised at the poor backline play of the Stormers. My question though is why pick Schreuder above more in form choices like Sarel Pretorius or Charl McLeod?

Meyer seemed intent on picking players based on form yet with Schreuder’s selection he seems to be backing away from that trend. Pretorius, when he has had the chance to play, has been a dangerous player for the Cheetahs. His sniping runs and constantly keeping the opposition guessing are his strongest attributes. He kicks well from the base and his service is crisp. The only blot on his CV would be his lack of tackling ability. But he offers so much more at times that that can be overlooked with comfort.

Charl McLeod may not be as dynamic as Pretorius but he certainly has a sense of the unexpected about him. He also keeps opposition guessing, his service is crisp, his kicking is exemplary and he can defend against bigger players. His only blot is age, but in my opinion he is still young enough to play for the Boks.

So picking Schreuder ahead of these guys begs a question. Why? I saw Meyer’s response is that he has helped out at raining sessions, but again I have to ask why? Who knows, maybe Meyer would have gone the Reinach route instead if he wasn’t injured. One thing is for sure though, Meyer is looking towards the future by picking young players as backup in his squad.

I just hope the Schreuder choice doesn’t back fire, for Meyer as well as the player in question!

Happy to a man… almost

The Bok game against Italy was quite literally a game of opposites. Brilliant for 20 minutes, crap for 30 minutes and then brilliant again for 30 minutes. The Boks looked a much better attacking force and it was easy to see why.

We had quick ball even though Vermaak could have been better protected and our forwards were generally in command in lose play. However, scrum time, the lineouts in the second half and the absolute shambles of restarts was what kept the Boks back from ammasing more points.

In the front row it is clear to see that Beast and Jannie need rest… it really looks like they are playing on almost depleted fuel reserves. No amount of Red Bull will help. Strauss on the other hand is improving with every game… they his perfect lineout record was shot to pieces in the second half.

Our second row of Juandré and Eben looked solid… when Flip came on there seemed to be a massive communication gap. Think the guys weren’t sure of who was calling the lineout shots but in the lose they still did well.

In our loosies play Arno Botha and Flouw stood head and shoulders above Spies. I see on Keo that Keohane said we should get off the backs of Morné Steyn and Pierre Spies… I agree on Steyn but totally disagree on Spies. He was mediocre at best against the Italians and Parisse showed him up in a losing team. Spies doesn’t even play that well when the Boks are on the back foot! Can’t help but feel that Meyer missed a trick in not picking Philip van der Walt. I can even imagine a Flouw, Lappies, Arno combo that would seem to be able to do what should be done… destroy opposition!

I was more than happy with our halfback pairing and Steyn has played every critic, including the staunch ones like me to complete and utter silence… hell I even praise him now. He is taking tha ball flatter and reads a game beautifully. He once again illustrates why sportsman should getting married until after their playing days!! Hahaha. Vermaak played well and deserved more protection… pity about the hamstring though.

Our centres looked well oiled. Jean is playing some of his best rugby this year and JJ has blossomed bloody well for someone who looked like absolute crap last year. I don’t think Juan will get a sniff at the green-and-gold again soon unless it’s off the bench or JJ gets injured.

Our back three where outstanding. Habana showed class throughout the game and even though Willie had a nervous start he provided some much needed thrust from the back. Basson started quietly and after his yellow card produced some very good touches.

All in all I was happy with the reserve play though Coenie is going to need a lot more time at tighthead to develop… wouldn’t mind seeing Adriaanse get a start. Pienaar slotted in seamlessly when replacing Vermaak and Lambie and Serfontein were not on long enough to make a telling contribution.

The only blot in the team for me is Spies. He should be offering so much more but yet again doesn’t play to his potential. He didn’t play badly… but he didn’t play well either.

Balanced Bok Team… almost

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:

Starting XV:

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.

Bok Selection makes me feel warm inside

Well the Bok squad has been announced and I must admit, for the first time in a long time, I am actually quite happy with the selection. One or two individuals can count themselves darn unlucky though.

The only true big surprise sprung on us couch-coaches was the inclusion of Lourens Adriaanse as backup tighthead. I was surprised by his inclusion above Wiehan Herbst since he got invited to trials and Adriaanse not. But it just goes to show that good form can still get you places.

Last year Meyer selected favourites. This year he seems content to acknowledge form (though when it comes to scrumhalf he still seems to play favourites). One form player that has been overlooked is Robert Ebersohn. Picking JJ Engelbrecht above him doesn’t make much sense. JJ has been playing very good rugby, but Ebersohn has been playing exquisite rugby. He has vision and great hands, something JJ doesn’t have yet. We can also say that Juan de Jongh has been a lucky inclusion. Yes probably but then again Stormers rugby hasn’t helped his cause. He has the ability to break a line better than the other two so if I was Meyer I would have stuck with him too.

I’m happy for a guy like Trevor but I don’t think he is better than Kitshoff. Kitshoff has been playing some good rugby of late for the Stormers. He has been scrumming very strongly and his play in the lose I also feel is superior. But take nothing away from Nyakane, he has been playing some solid rugby himself.

One inclusion I feel should never have happened and should never be allowed to happen is the continued inclusion of Zane Kirchner. Side-show Bob was solid last year, but he will never ignite a team or change a game. How he continues to make the squad only Meyer will know. I feel someone like Jürgen Visser has even been playing better rugby. Anyway…

All in all not a bad squad selection bar one or two picks. Hopefully the Boks can play some good rugby this year and actually be able to take on the likes of the All Blacks and Australia, and hopefully not draw to Argentina again… ever!