Tank Lanning - Sport24 Editor
Peter De Villiers has finally had to reveal his hand, and I think we all knew it was going to be a hand we had seen before. Prior to the squad being announced I suggested picking Heinrich Brüssow ahead of Schalk Burger, and while I was certainly not main stream, it was not met with the mountain of resistance I thought it might have attracted …
Probably because of the sensational form shown by Brüssow in recent times, and because most people in the country seem to realise that we need to take these forward based Lions on with an out and out fetcher.
But … And this is a MASSIVE "But" … De Villiers was going to start with Burger, and it is only an injury to the once great flank forward, that has forced his hand. And to my mind, probably saved him a few blushes on Saturday.
I enjoyed these comments from Juan Smith, the most experienced loose forward in the new trio of Smith, Brüssow and Pierre Spies, in an article on Sport24 today:
“He needs a swear word or two (to get him going), but then he will free up my and Pierre’s hands. Because he plays purely towards the ball, Pierre and I will have more opportunity to get the ball over the advantage line.”
In a way, albeit very subtly, suggesting that the loose trio will be better balanced. The breakdown points will be crucial in Durban on Saturday, and together with how referee Bryce Lawrence handles them, Brüssow will probably be the most important man on the field …
Overall, one cannot really fault this team, or the fact that De Villiers has gone with his “boys”, given the importance of consistency in selection to a team’s confidence. And this side should be good enough to beat the Lions, who given their performances against sides without their Boks, would not have had many in SA quaking in their boots.
But apart from dodging a bullet with the Burger injury, a few things do concern me:
Number one is the front row. I am happy with the run on three, and given that De Villiers chose not to have a second tighthead in the squad, one of the more crazy decisions ever seen, it is thus impossible to have one on the bench, so that is a worry. And another biggie is the fact that De Villiers has John Smit, his captain and still tighthead in training, as cover to Bismarck du Plessis at hooker. So the bottom line is that if either Smit or Du Plessis gets injured early, the Boks will have a loosehead prop, Deon Carstens, manning the fort in the number 3 jersey against one of the world’s best scrummagers, Gethin Jenkins. Concerning to say the least, but obviously not a big issue if neither gets injured … Another one of those “Buts”, though.
I would have played Morne Steyn at flyhalf. For three reasons – his prodigious form in the Super 14, as proved by Willem de Waal in the Western Province game - you have to play these Lions in their half so you need a flyhalf who can play the corners, and because Ruan Pienaar has not played afull game of rugby for so damn long. It would have made more sense to have Steyn playing the conservative game in the first half and Pienaar coming on in the second half to run it up at them a little.
I would also have been happier with Frans Steyn at fullback with the other Steyn at flyhalf. Less to go wrong, and we have see the Durban-based Steyn crack when things do fall apart. That said, he can do things that no other player can do, and has the biggest boot in the country, and given that there is no other fullback in the squad, he seems the best option. I just hope he keeps that bloody drop kick infested right leg away from the game!
A little sad not to see Ryan Kankowski on the bench I must say. Danie Rossouw can cover both lock and loose forward, so why have Andries Bekker on the bench? More options with Kankowski I reckon …
Breaking up the centre pairing would have been a big call, so I am happy to see them given another run, and very chuffed to see Jaque Fourie on the bench should things not work out so well in the midfield … Fourie is pure class!
So barring an injury to any of Du Plessis, Smit, or Pienaar during the match, I think we should be in for something quite special on Saturday come 15:00. That is if the men in Green and Gold can rid themselves of the cotton wool they have been wrapped in for so long!
Tank is a former WP prop and now author of the Front Row Grunt blog
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