Boks chase clean sweep
Sport24 columnist Corne Krige (File)
It’s that time of the year again, which many refer to as silly season. Yes, some shops have already got Christmas decorations up! It is also that time of the year when the Springboks depart on their annual end-of-year European tour. Fortunately, following a long and gruelling season, the side will only be playing three Test matches.
In my view, Heyneke Meyer has selected a relatively predictable squad for the tour except for a few young stars and the inclusion of two overseas-based players brought back into the fold. I believe the inclusion of Schalk Brits and Gurthro Steenkamp is a masterstroke. They have experience in playing in European conditions and they know most of the players the Boks will be opposing. Brits is a phenomenal player and will add a new dimension to our usually strong yet predictable forward pack.
The additional players added to the squad deserve their opportunity to shine on the world stage. Lionel Mapoe, Jano Vermaak and Arno Botha all impressed during Currie Cup duty.
However, one player who deserves special mention and has really impressed me is Raymond Rhule. He is a freak of nature and will no doubt fill Bryan Habana’s boots in the not too distant future. It’s ironic yet fitting that he has had to replace the SA Rugby Player of the Year.
The first hurdle comes in the form of Ireland. Declan Kidney’s men are set to prove probably the Boks' toughest opponents. I feel the opening Test is likely to set the tone for the rest of tour.
In recent years, Ireland have proved our toughest opponents and with Gert Smal employed as their forwards coach they know just how to take the Boks on upfront and unsettle our forward pack.
This however is a new breed of Springbok players and they won’t be so easy to figure out and unsettle. If the Boks hold onto possession and make the Irish defend for long periods of time they should prevail.
I was waiting with interest to see who Heyneke would pick at flyhalf. I’m pleased Patrick Lambie has earned the starting nod as I was starting to wonder what he needed to do to crack the first XV. Lambie overshadowed Morne Steyn in their duel in the Currie Cup semi-final, and the interesting thing is that the game was played in typical European-like weather conditions, which bodes well.
The Boks’ second Test is against Scotland and this will be the encounter which will allow Heyneke to give all the young players a run. That is of course if they win the game against Ireland!
Scotland have developed into a tough nut to crack under Andy Robinson. Just ask the Wallabies who played a second-string side at a small, unknown venue.
I played in a losing Test match against Scotland and it doesn’t take much for things to go wrong. It also doesn’t take much to give a rebel a cause. The Boks should have far more talent on display and this should be one of their easier wins on the tour, but sometimes things don’t work out as they should. That said, my call is the Boks by 12 points.
The final game of the tour is against the grand old foe England at Twickenham. In recent times, the Boks have managed to beat the Red Roses quite comfortably at their fortress.
In addition, the Boks should be buoyed by having played and beaten them quite recently on home turf. I believe the 2-1 series margin flattered the English. The Boks should have beaten them 3-0 in the three-match series.
If all goes according to plan in the first two games the Boks should beat the English to round off their tour on a high. However, pressure can build very quickly if results don’t go your way, just ask me.
With the 2015 Rugby World Cup to be staged in England, this end-of-year tour will serve as an ideal measure of which players Heyneke can carry forward with him over the next three years.
Let’s also hope that Heyneke’s win-loss record improves to halt the comparisons with past coaches, whom were far worse.Corne Krige represented the Springboks in 39 Tests, 18 of which were as captain.
Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.