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!

Couch-coach Bok pick

Well it’s almost International time with the June Test Series almost upon us. What every rugby enthusiast likes to do at a stage like this is analyse the potential candidates for Bok colours and the try and pick there starting XV (15 for you non-Romans). Guess what? I will be doing exactly that right now. Why change a couch-coach tradition?

It has been an interesting Super XV. Bulls who were not favourites at the start of the year are now leading the conference. The Cheetahs have finally found consistency and some depth to place second. The Sharks are sort of imploding. The Stormers have imploded and the Kings have won over many fans with some enterprising play. Basically everything in this tourney from a South African perspective is ass backwards. I’m happy for the Cheetahs. They deserve it and have been the most entertaining team by some distance for a long while. The Bulls’ young acquisitions are finding there feet and playing well, especially Serfontein.

So this year we have good and bad. Players in sublime form still seem to be an overlooked theme from Heyneke. He does so love his favourites but all in all his squad of 38 that he picked for training have not been too badly picked… bar one or two exceptions.

So out of that squad he has to pick 30… that should be an interesting subject when he finally does. I’m pretty sure we’ll see a surprise or two. His Brussow issue still leaves a bad taste in almost every supporter’s mouth but that’s should be an entirely different topic of conversation.

So here would be my starting XV followed by my reserve VII (7 for you non-Romans).

Starting XV:

1. Beast Mtwarira: Given his experience and his resurgence from bad form under Heyneke last year he should be an obvious pick again.

2. Adriaan Strauss: I pick him above a returning Bismarck only because Bismarck has been out for soooooo long. Plus Strauss has been in good form.

3. Coenie Oosthuizen: I pick him above Jannie because it will be a great training ground for Coenie to pick up some much needed tighthead exposure if he is to become one.

4. Flip van der Merwe: I used to be very critical of Flip. But ever since concentrating more on his rugby instead of just being a bully he has really won me over.

5. Eben Etzebeth: With Bekker departing and Juandré not one of my favourites and SA in general being so short of quality 5’s I’d pick Etzebeth here since we have an abundance of quality 4’s. Plus he did a damn good job at 5 against the Reds.

6. Francois Louw: We need a “fetcher” and Brussow isn’t in the squad, plus Deon Fourie should also not be overlooked as a “specialist”. Plus Flouw played bloody well last year!

7. Lappies Labuschagne: What?! I hear a few say… I’d pick him above Alberts because A: He has been playing better rugby and B: He has been playing better rugby

8. Arno Botha: He has been playing some good rugby for the Bull and yes at 7. The reason I don’t pick Spies is because I wouldn’t even have him in the squad. Yes he is a superb athlete but always disappears when games get tight. He will do well against these teams because they do not offer the same resistance as an Aussie or All Black side. I like Arno and he can play 8 and will probably not go for coffee in tight games.

9. Francois Hougaard: Heyneke has missed a trick here. No Piet van Zyl? Seriously? He has been the form 9 this whole tourney for SA teams. Hougie has been mediocre and Vermaak better but because there is no other choice I would pick Hougie… mainly to try gain some confidence for the Rugby Championship. But come then and Hougie still struggles then I’d drop him completely and pick Vermaak. Mind you Ruan Pienaar should be in the picture then.

10. Morné Steyn: I hate to admit this but he has been the form flyhalf so far. Enough said!

11. Bryan Habana: Even though he will be leaving he is still an automatic first choice. He has such a high work rate and all out commitment. Something a few other players can learn.

12. Jean de Villiers (C): We need a captain. Yes we have Serfontein and he could some good exposure for this little tourney. Who knows… maybe a sub with de Villiers moving to 13? That’s how I would grow him.

13. Robert Ebersohn: He has been playing some of his best rugby ever… and at 12. I pick him at outside because Juan de Jongh has only been consistent and Ebersohn has been brilliant. Plus he has a bit more experience than Serfontein and has played 13 before.

14. Willie le Roux: I’m sorry but this should basically be a no brainer. He has been sublime, phenomenal, extra-ordinary… pick an adjective! He can turn a game on its head given ¼ of a chance!

15. Pat Lambie: Mr Cool, Mr Calm… he would be perfect at 15. Has exceptional awareness and is great under the high ball. Plus I think he would link up great with Willie and Bryan.


16. Chiliboy Ralepelle: Just because he has been performing and Bismarck has been out sooooo long.

17. Jannie du Plessis: He can’t be left out completely. He has been a rock the last few years.

18. Pieter-Steph du Toit: I pick him above Juandré because I feel he has way more to offer than Juandré. I don’t feel like Juandré is a committed Bok… and not because he is leaving. I just don’t feel he is grounded. I could be wrong…

19. Willem Alberts: He pips Kolisi because I feel Alberts will have a bigger impact off the bench.

20. Jano Vermaak: Because we have no other choice!

21. Jan Serfontein: This kid is going to be a big superstar for SA. Hope he keeps his head on his shoulders with feet on the ground! He has been playing some very good rugby and can’t help but feel the Bulls owe him for their success thus far.

22. Bjorn Basson: Because he is quick, can defend and is awesome under a high ball. Plus he knows how to sniff out a tryline.

23. Wiehan Herbst: Maybe Coenie can stay at loosehead with Wiehan and Frans Malherbe looking promising.

That would be my 22 for the up coming June tour.

Enjoy the rugby.