What would your Springbok backline be?
Jean De Villiers of the Springboks is brought down by Jamie Roberts of Wales. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville
If you were the Springbok coach, what would your backline look like? Currently there are only a few experienced players who still look like they can do the business. It is really only Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen who look to be at international standard.
Fourie du Preez was once touted the best halfback in world rugby, but I consider him to be a kick and chase expert. His accuracy at box kicking, his work around the ruck and his ability to read the game are his strengths.
Francois Hougaard is a free spirited player who is at his best when he is allowed to do his own thing.
His passing is crisp when he doesn’t play under the shroud of an overbearing structure. He is strong in attack and defence and has quick pace off the mark but is not renowned for his kicking prowess.
Sarel Pretorius went to the Waratahs in hope of establishing himself as a match winner. However, for whatever reason he was not selected often and in the little time he did get to play, he made a big difference to the pace at which the Waratahs backline received ball.
His passing can at times be a little erratic, but an opportunist if there ever was one.
Ruan Pienaar, his pedantic play behind the ruck has been frustrating to say the least, however every time Goosen came in, Pienaar’s service was quicker, more crisp and more enthusiastic
There are a number of youngsters putting up their hands at Currie Cup level. Charl Mcleod has always been consistent in Super Rugby and is a solid player.
Nick Groom has been lighting up the Western Province backline. Michael Bondisio has looked good for the Lions, and then of course there is Piet van Zyl who did very well for the cheetahs.
Johan Goosen has shown promise much in the same way Naas Botha did all those years ago. He can do it all but perhaps his one weakness to work on is defence. But then Naas Botha himself was never a good defender.
Patrick Lambie’s strength is his versatility. He can play 10, 12 and 15 but I wonder if even he knows his best position.
Elton Jantjies has gone under the radar for the past few seasons, yet he has the ability to light up the Lions backline and his kicking accuracy stands back for no one.
Morne Steyn, the metronome, however his rhythm is gone and he is now more like a broken watch.
Bryan Habana has admittedly had a few poor seasons and his confidence seemed down.
However, in recent months he has shown a renewed appetite for scoring individual tries and is still a very solid defender with great positional play.
Francois Hougaard came onto the international scene by making a big impression against Wales at wing during the pool rounds of the World Cup but there is still some doubt as to whether he is a halfback or a winger.
Raymond Rhule is another promising player. He won the Junior World Cup with South Africa, and since then has made a good impression in the Currie Cup. However, he is still a little green and has more to learn before he becomes a complete player.
Frans Steyn has been around for a while now, yet he is still only 25, he is big, strong and has a huge boot. He showed some deft skills during the English tour and created a few tries with his distribution, but has he lost pace?
Jan Serfontein was named Junior World Cup player of the year and really impressed with his hard running, try scoring ability and good vision.
Patrick Lambie, a player with vision and a willingness to attack the gainline, his distribution is never under question. However, like Hougaard, there is still some doubt as to his best position.
Jean de Villiers has oodles of experience and in defence you will be hard pressed to find someone more able to organise. However, his distribution skills have been found out and he has lost pace. He no longer looks anywhere near as good as he did in 2007.
Juan de Jongh is a bit of a conundrum. There is no question he can hit the line and has the pace to get through, however his distribution is virtually non existent.
Of all the U20 players of the Junior World Cup, Paul Jordaan is the one player who has shown undeniably that he can step up against the big boys. He had a fantastic Super Rugby year and has shown all round skills.
JP Pietersen is most likely the best back line player in South Africa today, a shame his injury has stalled his scintillating form.
John Plumtree regularly used him at outside centre this year and it paid huge dividends, he has vision, is strong and always looks for the offload, you could do worse than him at outside centre.
Paul Jordaan played right wing for most of the Junior World Cup and was very impressive there, however at Super Rugby he was also employed at outside centre. He is a player full of running and a crowd pleaser who loves interplay with his backs. A very promising player.
Louis Ludick, since his move to the Sharks has improved immensely and is unlucky to not have had a call up yet.
JP Pietersen’s strength is defence. Who will forget his try saving tackles at the 2007 World Cup. He is a deceptively quick runner and is in great form. Where will he be most useful to South africa?
Zane Kirchner does not distribute, he doesn’t like to share, but he is a strong runner and has a good boot. However, the way Aaron Smith outfoxed him in defence will forever be a mark against him.
Patrick Lambie can make incisive moves from the back into the backline, however his defence is perhaps a little questionable.
Frans Steyn, is solid as a rock at the back and his big boot and calm exterior make him more suited to the role.
Jaco Taute has been in Meyer’s plans from the beginning, but an injury put an end to his season. He is only 21-years-old and has an air of Andre Joubert about him.
It is important to have some experience in the backline, it would be risky to select a backline comprising inexperienced youngsters. Therefore, my choices are conditional to having some experience mixed with the exuberance of youth.
Goosen must get and opportunity at 10. South Africa will not go forward unless they insert a 10 with running skills, vision and someone who is not afraid to take on the advantage line.
The main question is who to pair Goosen up with. Sarel Pretorius needs experience and Fourie du Preez on form might still not be the answer as he will most likely revert to the kick and chase game.
However he will take a lot of pressure off Goosen by controlling the pressure situations, he certainly has the ability to read when the attack is on as well. So perhaps adding him into the mix for a few matches could be the answer until Goosen has settled.
Outside Goosen it will be important to have an experienced player again, so Frans Steyn gets my vote. A playmaker is required outside of Steyn, so JP Pietersen with his defensive abilities and distribution could set the wings on fire.
Habana at left wing, Hougaard at right wing and Lambie at the back would make for better all round attacking ability and good ball skills. Habana is still there to organise the back three and defensively they should do well.
So my backline for next year is:
9. Fourie du Preez to phase Sarel Pretorius in
10. Johan Goosen
11. Bryan Habana
12. Frans Steyn
13. JP Pietersen
14. Francois Hougaard
15. Patrick Lambie.
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