Jean still not rested
It seems as if Heyneke announced the squad with only two changes from the side that beat Ireland.
While I am happy that De Jongh comes into the outside centre role and that Gurthro Steenkamp comes on as loosehead, I am a little bit concerned for Jean who seems to have been struggling with injury and still not being rested.
Jean has probably played the most rugby of anyone in the squad, and it’s reminiscent of a time when John Smit, as Captain, was hardly ever rested.
Jean has played 1920 minutes of Rugby this year up to before this tour, and his tally now stands on 2000 minutes for the year, a far cry from the number of minutes Tim Noakes advocated some time ago. As the oldest player of the squad at 31 years old, he’s played more Rugby than youngsters like Etzebeth, Coetzee, Hougaard, Lambie and Frans Steyn.
In New Zealand, the only backline player who has played nearly as much as Jean, was Israel Dagg who played 2100 minutes of Rugby this season, but at age 24, his body is by far more able to cope with the strain and as a full back, he hardly takes the type of punishment that Jean does.
Jean is getting older and one should tip his hat to him for the incredible performance he’s put of this year. Having played so much Rugby and still leading the side, it’s admirable to see and as Bok supporters we should be proud of him.
But it was a mistake from Meyer to not take along a decent cover for Jean. De Jongh has always been an Outside Centre and if Meyer is honest in his comments that he always planned to play De Jongh at 13, it is disappointing that he didn’t think of cover for the man in 12 who has been played into the ground this season.
Players like Tim Whitehead, Meyer Bosman, Marcel Brache and even Wynand Olivier could have been there as stand in players. Especially against Scotland where one would fancy your chances to rest some of your overplayed players, like Jean.
Whitehead and Brache have been impressive this season and would be welcome new faces in the Bok squad, whereas Bosman and Olivier are old hands who would easily make the step up as cover in the Bok camp. There might be others, but their names don’t come up as I am writing this.
If Jean aggravates his injury against Scotland, he could miss out a significant portion of the match which, without adequate cover, could harm the Springboks chances of winning. Even worse, he may be out of action for the match against England as well, and being the toughest game on this tour, I think its silly to risk Jean against the Scots.
Be that as it may, what is done is done. Jean is getting older and won’t be there for the next World Cup. The sooner a replacement for him is groomed, the better. Frans Steyn is considered a 12 by Meyer and that is all good and well, but who is his understudy? Who will stand in when Frans gets injured again, and Jean is not available anymore? Is Meyer even thinking that far? Because from where I am sitting, there is no-one on his radar with no inside centre going along on tour, and no inside centres being selected to cover for Frans when he got injured in the Rugby Championship.
And when the old man steps down as captain next year, which is what I expect, we will once again be left with a void, and experience will again become the excuse.