Brüssow in Bok riddle
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Is Heinrich Brüssow going to be a shock omission from the Springbok starting line-up for the first Test of their European tour against France next week?
Some punters will be tempted to surmise as much after the Cheetahs’ open-side flank was unexpectedly named among the “dirt-track” team, leaving several days ahead of 15 supposedly blue-chip Bok players, to play Leicester Tigers on Friday night.
It is not as though Brüssow is especially in need of game-time as he has been an integral part of the Absa Currie Cup run-in for his province, losing finalists to the Blue Bulls on Saturday.
Indeed, he was a stand-out element of the Cheetahs’ brave attempt to subdue the Bulls juggernaut.
But on Monday he was named to start for a Chiliboy Ralepelle-led Bok side (a full team plus the seven reserves were provided) to play the English Premiership champions.
Of course there is nothing, supposedly, to stop national coach Peter de Villiers shuffling his cards before the France crunch a week later – and he may be deliberately tossing a few red herrings around -- although it is tempting to assume that the 15 players whose departure has been delayed are intended as the starting XV in Toulouse.
By process of elimination, it suggests that the Bok team to play France may be the following: Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Adrian Jacobs, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit (capt), Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.
With the spectacularly versatile (in a Bok context, anyway) Ruan Pienaar named at flyhalf for the mid-weekers, Kirchner appears to have the inside lane for a recall to the senior XV as fullback.
The Bulls man started the dead-rubber third Test against the British and Irish Lions at Coca-Cola Park, when the Lions earned a convincing, consolation win.
Similarly, Sharks veteran Adi Jacobs staying behind for the time being with the “core” squad suggests he is earmarked for the inside centre vacancy created by Jean de Villiers’s departure for Ireland.
He has spent most of his Bok career at No 13 but the Bok coach is known to fancy his skills as a “creator” a little closer to the engine room.
Kankowski earning a start against France as blind-side flank, with Burger supposedly re-inheriting his beloved No 6 jersey, would be a shock move, especially as his Sharks role is consistently at No 8.
But he does bring explosive acceleration and dynamism in general play to any party: is he about to blooded in a potentially exciting new role?
Perhaps we should not jump to massive conclusions just yet, especially as any side-lining of Brüssow would rightly anger many observers; he has been one of the finds of the season, occasionally even eclipsing that legend of the fetching chore, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
Generally, the Bok outfit to oppose Leicester looks a decent combination, despite some rumblings about the make-up of the broad, 37-strong party named after the Currie Cup final.
There are 10 uncapped players among the match 22, with some strong positional combinations a feature.
Among these are the prop alliance of Gurthro Steenkamp and Jannie du Plessis, a wise second-row combination of the rangy Andries Bekker with more pragmatic Danie Rossouw, and a succulent midfield pairing of seasoned Wynand Olivier (many experts’ pick to replace Jean de Villiers) with the 21-year-old Western Province phenomenon Juan de Jongh.