The interesting thing to come out of
yesterday’s Springbok team announcement was less about the actual match day 23,
but more about coach Heyneke Meyer feeling the need to explain or justify the
selections of Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys on the bench.
“Nizaam can cover all the positions in the
back-row and his call-up is just-reward after a very good season. Julian has
been superb for the Lions this season and he’s shown that he can scrum. Both of
them are now familiar with our plays and structures and I’m looking forward to
see what they can bring on Saturday”, said the Springbok coach.
No need coach. The rest of South Africa
have been believers for a long time. The explanation should have been about why
they are not starting, not justifying their existence on the bench. Along with
reasons for the conservative selection in general.
As England and the All Blacks go heavily
experimental against Samoa and Scotland respectively, so the Boks, playing a
side ranked well below those two (Italy are 14th, Samoa 11th
and Scotland eighth), make just the single experimental selection.
Given that Jannie du Plessis and Schalk
Burger had to be replaced, the selections of both Coenie Oosthuizen and Oupa
Mohoje are enforced, with both being “next in line” picks based on the Meyer
pecking order. Beast Mtawarira is rested so in comes next in line, Trevor
Nyakane, in a deserved rotation that will not weaken the side.
Leaving the only truly experimental
selection as that of Johan Goosen at fullback. And given that he was brought
into the 36-man squad as a fullback, perhaps not even that pick can be deemed
experimental. This as the 2nd best side in the world take on the 14th
ranked side in the world.
A week or two back, Meyer mentioned his
concern about being thought of as “stupid and conservative” by South Africans
back home. Stupid he is most certainly not, but it’s pretty damn difficult to
argue against the conservative part, though.
Which is not all bad, and to be honest, a
little bit woven into the fabric of South African sport. We tend toward
sticking to what has worked, rather than pioneering new techniques at the
bleeding edge of sporting evolution. Which has its advantages given that you
let others make the errors before treading a more guaranteed path.
But it would have been quite fun to have
seen Meyer buck the trend a little this weekend. Especially given that the sun
will still come up on Sunday if an experimental Bok side were to go down to the
Italians with a new look side looking to build squad depth in a year before a
The Boks lose JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana
to their respective overseas clubs next week, so Meyer is no doubt waiting for
the Wales game to give the likes of Lwazi Mvovo and Seabela Senatla a run, but
getting them involved this week might have made more sense. Mvovo ahead of
Habana in the run on XV, and given that JP can play fullback, Senatla ahead of
Willie le Roux, who is carrying an injury, on the bench, would have been my
Also, we know what Mohoje can do, and
given that it is yet to be game changing, if making the call to stick with
Duane Vermeulen and Marcel Coetzee, this seems an ideal opportunity to start
Carr and have Jaco Kriel on the bench.
Having a look at Damien de Allende at 13
would also not have been the worst call, and given that Goosen can play
flyhalf, Jan Serfontein could have sat on the bench in place of Handre Pollard,
which would give both De Allende and Meyer some comfort.
Up front, I am nervous, but given the faith
Meyer has placed in Oosthuizen, he had no other choice at tighthead. It’s now
time for the Cheetahs loosehead to repay the coach. The Italian front row did
not go too badly against the Bajada last weekend, and now we have the Cheetahs
front row, not always dominant in the Currie Cup, let alone Super Rugby, taking
on martin Castrogiovanni and co. Squeaky bum time!
Introducing new blood to a squad is a
tricky business and best done regularly, in different positions, so they get to
play with experienced players. Or, en masse, but with the old hands on the
bench to right any ship that tilts too far to Starboard. I am not sure Meyer
has quite got this one right yet.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.
Disclaimer: 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.