New-look Bok back 3 looms
Sport24 Chief Writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town - Expect the Springbok back three for the first Castle Rugby
Championship match against Argentina at Newlands on Saturday to be 100
percent altered, at least in jersey-wearing terms, from the personnel
who manned these posts in the final Test against England at Port
Elizabeth in late June.
Reading between the lines, it appears
that fit-again Zane Kirchner will regain his fullback berth, after
getting sidelined by injury in the first Test against England in Durban,
and the wings will be Lwazi Mvovo
and Bryan Habana
long-serving Habana did play in the drawn encounter against England at
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, but that was in his more conventional No 11
jersey - this time he is probably the favourite to operate out of
position on the right, given the unfortunate absence for several weeks
of JP Pietersen.
In the final Test against the English, Gio Aplon
had the No 15 jersey, with normal first-choice wing fliers Habana and
Pietersen at their orthodox stations; instability at fullback had been
aggravated at the time by the unavailability of the second-Test choice
there, Pat Lambie.
But a significant reshuffle of the whole back
three has been required due to in-form Pietersen’s thumb fracture,
especially given that diminutive Stormers star Aplon has subsequently
been axed from the Bok squad.
It would be more logical for Habana
to swop sides than the considerably less experienced Mvovo - if both
specialist left wings are to be accommodated, as strongly speculated -
given that he is no stranger to occasional duty as an outside centre, so
will have a more natural positional affinity to the right-hand side of
Besides, it is a chance for the long-time Bok banker on
the left to acquire a few “novelty” No 14 jerseys to add to his
impressive collection, provided that he looks suitably at home on a
Specific, team selection issues were obviously
skirted when Ricardo Loubscher, one of the Bok assistant coaches and
himself a former Test fullback, held a media briefing on Sunday morning -
the team to play Argentina will be formally announced by head coach Heyneke Meyer
But he also said little to suggest that the back three will differ from the hotly-tipped alliance of Kirchner, Mvovo and Habana.
whether a lack of continuity at fullback was regarded as problematic,
given the deployment of all of Kirchner, Lambie and Aplon in succession
against England, Loubscher said: “It won’t be something new for the
“These guys are professionals and know how to adapt
and what to expect ... we expect a physical game and a kicking game
(given the heavy, wet conditions being experienced in Cape Town).”
is no secret that in such circumstances, particularly, Meyer favours
fairly brawny individuals to be stationed in the last line of defence,
and Kirchner’s 1.86m and near-100kg gives him the edge on someone like
the versatile Lambie (1.77m, 92kg) who may offer potentially widespread
cover options off the bench on Saturday.
Loubscher did say toward
the end of the briefing, perhaps significantly: “Zane got injured and I
think it’s only fair that he gets another opportunity.”
that possibly engaging two left wings on Saturday “would not make a
helluva difference” and need not be regarded as a snag.
“Test players can adjust to these situations.”
confirmed that probably having an impressive array of line and tactical
kickers in the expected Bok backline on Saturday - aided by the return
of Frans Steyn
to midfield after his honeymoon-induced absence from the PE Test - would be handy at Newlands.
Test level kicking is always a big part of your game. We’re fortunate
to have all those guys available. It’s definitely an area where we are
working hard to establish 100 percent accuracy in (execution) and also
the fielding of kicks.
being (available again) is massive. He is also a big part of our
game-plan in terms of his ball-carrying, getting us over the advantage
line.”*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing