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So Jean de Villiers has left the building. It is a sad way to end a career, veteran of 109 Test matches, captain for the last three years, and a leader who would have made any country proud.
Unfortunately like John Smit before him, Joost van der Westhuizen before him, Bobby Skinstad before them, and probably a whole lot more have gone into world cups still recovering from injuries or out of form, when it could be argued they shouldn’t have.
Sure coaches have their favourites, they have those players they will believe in to the end. When the end comes suddenly, they have to move on.
Jan Serfontein will be the replacement for Jean de Villiers and he will make a welcome return to the Springbok squad.
So Jean, I salute you and thank you for the services to our country.
So where do the Springboks stand after two weeks in England?
If the rumours are all true, and you have read attentively between the lines, the Springbok camp was not united when they arrived in England. More than half the Springbok squad failed their fitness tests at the start of the Rugby Championship and Meyer took close to a dozen recovering players with him to the world cup.
That pretty much spells disaster for any team trying to win the coveted Webb Ellis.
Humiliation out the way, Samoa was a chance to redeem themselves, or perhaps I should say find favour with their supporters, as redemption is a whole different story in my book.
You can never erase the humiliating defeat at the hands of the Japanese. The fact is Meyer knew they were coming, he has known that since the schedule for the world cup came out – just as Eddie Jones knew about it.
How does one measure the performance against Samoa?
With a grain of salt I would suggest.
I’d rather have a look at the players and discuss whether there has been progress in fitness levels and attitude.
Beast Mtwarira looked good in the scrums, the same cannot be said about Jannie du Plessis, but then Census Johnson has no idea what scrumming straight is about and neither does Jerome Garces.
That said, if Census can get away with it, why not? You exploit the inability of a referee to see things for what they are as it benefits your team, Jannie could have gone to the referee and politely request the referee to have a look at the angles Census was scrumming at, but then Jannie is a nag bag, referees don’t listen to him.
Adriaan Strauss had a good day at the line outs and made a few decent ball carries, perhaps against a team that is better on the ground Bismarck du Plessis would be better, but then I suspect Bismarck was in the Meyer sinbin, for what we can only speculate.
Eben Etzebeth was a monster in the tight exchanges, showed his power in carrying and defence and looks like he can soon be back to his best.
There are a few players I had massive concerns about and Victor Matfield was one of them, perhaps my personal bias shines through, I don’t like the man, I never have, but to his credit he threw his 56 year old body around like a 38 year old, stole some line outs and made the most tackles.
Let’s be clear about this, he isn’t going to tackle a wet paper bag into submission, but he will hold on for dear life.
Schalk Burger was immense, his link play is second to none, his ability to see where the overlaps are, when to carry, when to offload and when to pass is a revelation, I don’t believe South Africa has had a better link player than him eva.
Duane Vermeulen started quietly, his first 40 minutes went by without him being noticed, then as the match got into the 50th minute Duane woke up, you could see the lights turn on and the motor started running, he will be OK for the rest of the world cup.
Francois Louw as I discussed with Harry was invisible, but then he reminded me that Louw does the unseen work, so for now, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Although I still believe Marcell Coetzee should be the man wearing the six jersey for the Springboks.
Fourie du Preez wasn’t spectacular, but then I don’t think anyone expects him to be spectacular anymore, what he did well was clear the rucks, control the territory with his kicks and assist Pollard with managing the game.
Pollard attacked flat, his goal kicking wasn’t perfect, and his general management of the game still lacks. But what he does bring is hesitation for the defence, and for now, while he is still learning that will have to do.
Damien de Allende made a welcome return to the 12 jersey which he should not relinquish under any circumstances for the next eight years. He should defend that jersey with every fibre of his being and no matter whether coach or player want to rip it of his body, he must simply ‘bliksem’ them.
Hopefully Meyer will now stick with Damien and Jesse for the remainder of the tournament. At some point he must realise continuity in selection is vital for a midfield partnership.
Habana scored, JP scored, but it isn’t the fact that they scored that should make Springbok supporters more positive. It is the fact that it seems the lights in their eyes are back.
For too long the pair of them have looked as if they were just going through the motions.
Willie le Roux does not have much game time under the belt, and I suppose he will always be a bit of genius a bit of flop, but rather him than some airplane seeking a landing platform at the contact zone.
I don’t think we should get too excited yet, remember Japan. It will be my newest, latest slogan.
‘Always remember Japan’.