Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has surprised a few with his selections for the world XV game this weekend. I count myself one of them.
There is still a lot to debate but the introduction of Cornal Hendricks to the back three is an excellent choice and opportunity for the speedster who has combined well with Willie le Roux all season.
Habana is the other wing and needs no analysis. How he shapes up after a season a Toulon will.
The out of form JP Pieterson moves in one to his preferred position at outside centre – where he has played for his club side in Japan. He has played well here at super rugby level before but it is not a position we have seen much of him this season. Given defensive requirements this could be a big ask – especially beyond this first hit out.
The other centre is Frans Steyn, where most of the faithful believe is his best position but argue that consistent rotation has robbed him of excelling in.
For flyhalf – Meyer has plumbed for the low risk option of Morne Steyn. Neither he or Goosen have been playing much or with much form so it’s hard to argue whether this is the best selection. It’s expected both will play half of the match.
If flyhalf was conservative – then scrumhalf is draconian. Starter Pienaar is apt at game management from the ruck but lacks speed of service – given the depth Steyn will receive the pill this probably wont impact the backline much more. Du Preez is on the bench but I would have preferred Reinach in for Ruan.
The pack is as usual where it’s at. The established combination so Vermeulen, Alberts and Louw are in place. Vermeulen has been growing from strength to strength this season while Alberts has been getting more fatigued. Expect Schalk to replace Alberts around the 50 minute mark. Louw has I believe only just returned from injury at Bath but is still the best over the ball player the Boks have. With no Brussow in the squad we will need him.
We are back to the future in the locks department. While I had massive reservations around Matfield’s return. the interim captain has actually been playing very well and deserves his place – Bakkies I am not so sure of. Victor is going to have to play 80 minutes as Bakkies can’t.
No quibbles with the powerhouse all Sharks front row.
The bench speaks volumes. No new blood and the fact the substitute loosehead and hooker are offshore players and in Steenkamp way off the game is a tragedy. For this match we should have been looking at any number of the super franchises loose head stocks. I would have actually preferred that we stop trying to retread Coenie Oosthuizen and bring in a tight head specialist as the Lions prop is pretty decent.
The return of the incredible Schalk Burger is a good one, lets see if he can still bring it at international level.
From the backs, its good to see Mvovo get a shot for his utility value. His recent form playing at fullback has probably helped and I would prefer his pace and attack to the conservative Kirchner.
Overall, the pack looks as good as it can be. The backline isn’t too bad either but it will be the link between the 9-10 axis that will set the tone. At this point it appears to be the conservative choice. Lets hope I am wrong and the back three do more than chase up-and-unders all game.
Springbok team: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield (captain), Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez, Johan Goosen, Lwazi Mvovo.