Over to you, Jan
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
It really is a strange old rugby season this year...
With the Lions tour Down Under dominating the rugby landscape, the Aussies started the Super Rugby season early, and will be playing two derbies on the weekend in which the Kiwis play their first Test against the French and the Boks take on the Italians as part of their quadrangular with the Scots and Samoans.
They then take on the Lions and only return to Super Rugby in the final round of matches on the weekend of July 12/13, which means the Brumbies might have secured a place in the playoffs before the four-week bye.
But, they need the Reds to lose to the Rebels this weekend, and will need to beat said Melbourne side without Ben Mowen, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Christian Lealiifano and Joseph Tomane, as they will all be with the Wallabies for the first camp before the series against the Lions.
Sure it is not the Lions tour, but I wonder how the Cheetahs and Bulls would have reacted had Heyneke Meyer suggested a their Bok players attend a camp this weekend instead of going head to head to go a long way to deciding the SA Conference winner? I have a feeling he might have been told horse he could ride off on...
As it stands, the Sharks have a bye, and that might influence the team selection against Italy. It perhaps makes sense to pick the more rested Durban boys, but with the Stormers out of Super Rugby contention, should the likes of Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, and Eben Etzebeth really be going hammer and tong with the Kings at Newlands on Saturday?
Of course coach Allister Coetzee will be talking about having to avoid the promotion/relegation match, and the list of injuries has is currently dealing with, but I cannot see any Stormers side losing to the Kings twice, and it would be good to see a franchise acting for the good of the national cause... But it’s the franchises who pay the players’ salaries, and they, understandably, want their pound of flesh.
Speaking of the national cause, I really am very excited by the squad picked by Meyer for the recent Bok camp in Durban. Without Duane Vermeulen, the squad looks a little thin at eighthman, hence my suggesting that the Cheetahs’ Phillip van der Walt get a look in, but that is probably the only position that is lacking a little in depth.
I would have had Heinrich Brussow and Piet van Zyl in the mix, but I understand some of Meyer’s reasoning, especially given that he will probably be calling on the services of both Francois Louw and Ruan Pienaar.
The 22 man squad I would pick for the Italian Test then:
Backs (10): Willie le Roux, Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie, Robert Ebersohn
Forwards (12): Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Wiehahn Herbst, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi
This selection, which excludes any overseas based players as I do not think they should be selected for the Boks, would look much better balanced with Brussow at No 6 and Coetzee on the bench. And wanting to have another fetcher on the bench given that the game plan would be badly thrown should your starting fetcher go down in the first minute, your fourth forward on the bench needs to be a flank-cum-lock, hence Pieter-Steph du Toit cracking the nod ahead of Flip van der Merwe.
I would not rush Bismarck du Plessis straight back into the Test arena, while Coenie Oosthuizen is unlucky to miss out, but you simply have to make sure tighthead prop is covered on the bench before looking for a ball carrier.
It’s a bloody exciting side, including a backline that I would encourage Steyn to give the ball, rather than always kick it ahead for them to chase...
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 …
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