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).
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.