So last week when I wrote about my concerns about Heyneke’s Bulls picks when he announced his 42 players for his last training squad last Sunday, I got severely lambasted by some, mostly stating that I am being harsh on Heyneke and that I should wait for the final squad announcements before jumping to conclusions.
Now Heyneke named his final squad for the England test series and alas, yes, amongst the few players who pick themselves, there was a few disappointments. Especially when one considers Heyneke’s statement that he will rely on experience when picking the side.
Seasoned journalists like Brendan Nel came out in strong support of Meyer’s selections, also revealing that he has worked with him for 12 years and saying that Heyneke knows what he’s doing. Well, if you are such big friends, it is difficult to be objective.
Others maintain that we should not question Meyer’s selections, we should wait until after the performance to judge him.
Others go back to the “previous coaches did it, why shouldn’t Meyer” attitude, resembling the “if they can jump into the fire, why can’t Meyer” attitude.
But mostly, Meyer has come under quite some criticism for the vast number of Bulls selections in his side who some deem undeserving ahead of other players who are deserving, according to them.
Before I continue my post, however, I think I just need to clarify (as some might not get it) a few things, since on my previous post it seemed some people didn’t get it.
1.I am a Bok supporter. Look at the background and header of this blog, and you will see I make no secret of te fact that I support the Springboks, through thick and thin. I will scream my lungs out for them when they take the field, I will pray every minute that they succeed, I revel in their glory and I cry at their demise. I am a Proud Springbok supporter.
2. I have no vendetta against Heyneke Meyer. I was as surprised as everyone else when he was not selected to succeed Jake White in 2008 and just as happy as everyone else when he was chosen to succeed Peter de Villiers.
With that said, I do believe I have a right to say what I think of Meyer’s decisions and way of doing things. I do not judge him, but I do judge his decisions. Someone mentioned I should not criticize the plan before they had a chance to execute it. I disagree. When an architect draws up the plans for a house, does he say “Ag, don’t worry too much about those skew foundations and omitted power outlets, just look at when the house is built before you criticise” No. The plan is the ideal and best opportunity to get it right, because fixing things while you are on the go, is so much more difficult if you’ve got it wrong from the outset.
The first point I want to address is this notion that Heyneke doesn’t have time to prepare for the Test series against England and therefore, he has to select experienced players that will require less coaching in the Bok setup.
I can agree and sympathise with this notion as it is something I’ve said from day one and wondered how Heyneke will do this. The fact is, however, Heyneke did not just have this coming week to prepare, he’s had since the day he was appointed to prepare. Several camps were held with just about the whole South African Super 15 conference’s players. He’s had months to communicate with his players, get his plans together and select his players from those he invited to the training camps. But to get the team together to train and gel was not going to be so easy unless he picks players who played together for the Springboks before and have the necessary experience to just slot into the squad.
That’s why Heyneke was so eager to bring in Fourie du Preez. Somehow he went from the definitive captain, supported by all of Gavin Rich, Brendan Nel and Rob Houwing, to a no show. Perhaps the biggest surprise omission of all.
SO, one could have expected a side that resembels last year’s world cup side, bar the few senior chaps who retired and went off shore off course. And inevitably, there are names one would expect to see there and seeing them will not rise to a raoring applaud for the coach, why applaud common sense?
But it came as quite a big surprise when Gio Aplon was totally omitted from the side. We know from history that Aplon punches way above his weight on the Bok jersey and have played good rugby this season with the Stormers, not forgetting his performance over the past few years either. Aplon can be used as wing or full back. Not so much is it his versatility in those positions that makes him such a big contender, but it is his experience of the role of the back three, knowing when to cover for his full back, having a deadly left boot and being secure under the high ball, that makes him almost a must in the back three. To have totally excluded him from the group was nothing less than shocking. Especially if you consider who replaces him.
Now that can only be answered once the final 22 is announced, however, it could be any one of Zane Kirchner, JJ Engelbrecht or Bjorn Basson. Now for all we know, Habana and JP Pietersen will be the starters on wing. Mvovo deserves his call up, as do Basson but when we look at the role of Zane Kirchner and JJ Engelbrecht, who is actually a wing that struggles to maintain a starting berth at outside centre with the Bulls, it becomes a bit concerning that they get the thumbs up ahead of Aplon. You want experience and form, Aplon is your man to back up your starting 15. Instead, we have Kirchner, someone who has failed dismally at Bok level in the past and is as one dimensional as the Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob, and Engelbrecht who has no experience to speak of and has played only a handful of Super Rugby matches. Certainly not enough experience nor form to warrant a Bok call up.
When it comes to the loose forwards, I found it quite hard to swallow the fact the man of the match in this weekend’s win of the Stormers over the Springboks Bulls did not make the call up. Instead, we have:
Ryan Kankowski, a player played very little rugby this season and only played a few minutes in what I think was his third of fourth Super Rugby match this year. Does he have experience? Yes, of course he has. Someone had to carry all the suitcases on his many travels with the Springboks since 2008.
Willem Alberts, who was an impressive force when the Springboks travelled Europe in 2010 and opened himself a spot in the Bok squad as a result. However, he’s failed to impress in the early season, but seems in good shape after he returned from injury. Unfortunately, he still is one of the top scorers in the unwanted missed tackles count for this year’s super rugby season.
Keegan Daniel, who, to be honest has been playing very good rugby, but as leader has been less than impressive. On form deserves his call up, but not on anything else.
Jacques Potgieter, very lucky to be there in my opinion and also one of the selections that makes Heyneke seem to favour the Bulls players. He’s been injured for a few weeks and suddenly his name appears on the Bok squad list. Perhaps deserving, but any more deserving than Siya Kolisi?
I want people to get away from this notion that IF Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen was not injured, that Kolosi would not have been selected in any event. Fact is, they are injured, and just like he deservedly got his chance in the Stormers jersey as a result, and held his position because he was performing brilliantly, he deserved to be in the Bok squad ahead of either Kankowski or Potgieter. And on that point, just like everyone thought Brossouw’s selection is a no-brainer, who is to say Heyneke would have been interested in either Schalk or Duane?
These guys are just the squad, its not the matchday 22, so why worry?
I raised the flag when the 42 was named for last week’s training camp, and now some say “Why now suddenly ask about Kolisi, he wasn’t even in the last 42?” Well, I yielded that argument because it was suggested that since he was injured he was not included last week. Alas, so was Potgieter, who didn’t even play last night.
Why be concerned about the selections if the guys won’t even play, perhaps? Well, that’s just it. Why are they there then? Why pick a JJ Engelbrecht and Zane Kirchner, when you can have a Gio Aplon? JJ is a centre? Well, I could argue he is not. In terms of centres we have Frans Steyn who is a starter, with Jean de Villiers who can just as easily slot into the nr 13 jersey. Wynand Olivier, well, there is not much other stock, is there? And then we have Robert Ebersohn who was overlooked while in superb form this year.
Why Zane Kirchner and Wynand Olivier will suddenly be so good in the green jersey whereas they never performed with their Bulls half backs for the Springboks is beyond comprehension. But as I said with Wynand there is not much else, whereas with Kirchner, surely, you have Aplon?
The problem is, why are these guys chosen ahead of other more deserving, more experienced and more on form players? Is there any rational explanation or do we just have to make up our own minds as to how the team with the most missed tackles and who just lost to bottom of the pile Lions in the Super Rugby this year has 12 Springboks and the team who just lost to a depleted Stormers side (sans Burger, Vermeulen, Koster, Carr and Pietersen) has 13?
That said, I am chuffed with the inclusion of Franco van der Merwe who think utterly deserves his spot and should make the lock pairing with Etzebeth.
All the best to those who were selected and congratulations. I truly hope you value this opportunity as much as those who lost theirs. BE wary that if you do not perform in the green and gold, those who lost out will be breathing down your necks and (hopefully) Heyneke will not be scared to drop you. Most of all, go out there and make us proud. Because although I am disappointed with some omissions and inclusions (and not nearly as disappointed as those who have been left out in the cold, think Aplon, Brossouw) I will stand behind my Springboks next weekend, and hope they demolish those british infedels!! Go Bokke!