Lions in SA

Tough decisions for Div

2009-06-28 22:56
Peter de Villiers (Gallo Images)
JJ Harmse

Pretoria – Will the excellent performance by Morné Steyn at Loftus Versfeld be enough to convince the Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, that he belongs in the Bok starting line-up?

Has Heinrich Brüssow shown that he should be picked over Schalk Burger, even in the unlikely event of the Bok player walking away unpunished from his disciplinary hearing?

What to do with Jaque Fourie, who on Saturday again showed his world-class status?

These are the issues that De Villiers and his assistant coaches, Dick Muir and Gary Gold, will think about on Monday when they choose the team for the third and final Test against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday in Johannesburg.

De Villiers has repeatedly said that Ruan Pienaar is his first choice for flyhalf, but Steyn on Saturday won the series single-handedly with his accurate kicking, when Pienaar couldn’t. But it can’t be taken for granted that Steyn will be rewarded.

De Villiers praised the Bulls flyhalf after the match, but gave no indication if he would get a place in the starting line-up.

“It is a professional sport and you don’t play anymore with only 15 players to win matches.

“You expect your substitutions to come onto the field and make a difference and that is what Morné did on Saturday,” said De Villiers.

“Well done to him and well done to the team.”

But he did admit that Steyn’s brilliant performance would make picking his team more difficult.

“It is tricky and we will have to manage the players according to the best of their and our own abilities. Wait until the team is chosen, then you will know what I have in mind.”

Brüssow is another player who features in every rugby enthusiast’s starting line-up, but not in that of De Villiers. But if Burger is suspended, it could leave the coach with no other choice than to include the tough litte fetcher from Bloemfontein.

At the same time, Fourie’s try was an example of what he could do with the ball in his hands. To use him only late in the second half is a waste, as he is of much more use early on in the match.

Jean de Villiers’s shoulder injury could force the coach to make a change in the midfield, with the WP centre possibly being replaced by Wynand Olivier if he doesn’t recover in time.

With the series in the bag, there are rumours that big changes could be an attractive option for the Johannesburg battle. Some key players could perhaps get a break, while those who haven’t played, could be used. It could mean that the wings, Jongi Nokwe and Odwa Ndungane, be included instead of Bryan Habana and JP Pieteren with Fourie and Olivier in the midfield.

Steyn could start at flyhalf with Ryan Kankowski and Andries Bekker also getting a chance. A less exciting prospect is that this may mean a return for scrumhalf Ricky Januarie.

Springbok captain John Smit said after the Test that the “necessary momentum” had to be built ahead of the Tri-Nations series at the end of next month, but also indicated that enough playing opportunity for other candidates was equally important.


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