Cape Town – Well, we know for sure that the Springboks
aren’t going to pitch up, at least from the outset, at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr
Stadium on Saturday (09:35 SA time) intending to win any beauty contest.
Pragmatism tilted the selection thinking of coach Heyneke
Meyer on Wednesday, which probably comes as little surprise for the formidable
challenge of the All Blacks in the Castle Rugby Championship.
It is clear that the Boks are going to try to hang in grimly
– the Afrikaans equivalent in this instance might well be “knyp”? -- and pray
for an opening of some kind, rather than venture forth with a deep-rooted gambler’s
To the mounting lobby who believe the national side’s brains
trust is averse to any meaningful evolution, the retention in the influential
positions of fullback and flyhalf of Zane Kirchner and Morne Steyn respectively
is a sure signal that efficiency will once again supersede “flash”.
Already the naysayers are out in force: he may be a
particularly prolific critic in the Twitter-sphere, but former thrill-factor
Bok flank Rob Louw (@roblouw6) would have summed up the feelings of many when
he observed: “At this stage our love and support for our beloved Boks is being
tested. Might just go 4 a surf.”
The backline is
entirely unaltered from the combination who at least created (yet in some key
instances also butchered) a handful of fairly promising scoring opportunities
in the defeat to Australia last time out.
Ja, well, no, fine.
In the pack, meanwhile, there are two changes, with Flip van
der Merwe for the in-form but moderately disgraced Eben Etzebeth at lock
predictable if less than wholly assuring, and provision at last for someone
pretty closely resembling a specialist open-side flank: Francois “Flo” Louw of
Unfortunately what the call-up of Louw (and it is to be
lauded) to the starting XV means is that the Boks are also sacrificing, for the
first time this season, emerging young Marcell Coetzee, instead of
accommodating him elsewhere in the loose trio.
The Sharks player, while he lasted, was often the one Bok loose
forward in 2012 thus far with some credentials as a “stepper” and potential
A newly-assembled combo of Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane
Vermeulen should not play second fiddle to their All Black opposite numbers for
pure muscularity, but there’s also no Ferrari in that particular three-berth stable
to speak of, is there?
Overall, then, the team assembled strongly suggests that the
Bok intention, however dubious is may sound to plenty of supporters, is to try
to drag the New Zealanders into an uncompromising scrap, potentially
suffocating their own, usually greater desire for ball-in-hand flamboyance.
You have to say this in Meyer’s defence: his picks have
certainly been influenced in some ways by a cruel list of kingpin absentees, as
well as lingering doubts about the fitness and/or fatigue levels of certain
elements within the overall touring squad.
That may be one reason for Coetzee, for instance, suddenly
finding himself in an impact capacity among the substitutes.
And on that theme – the bench – there is arguably cause for
For if things are going pear-shaped after the first 40
minutes or so on Saturday, at least the coach’s reserve arsenal does provide
several elements of dynamism if the Boks suddenly decide to ditch conservatism
and genuinely “have a go”.
You would expect Coetzee to come out snorting if he gets an
opportunity (as doubtless he will), plus in the towering form of Andries Bekker
– though should he have started, to try to cause chaos at lineout time? – comes
someone who, for all his flaws and near-constant niggles, is not incapable of
putting in a 40-yard charge at a rate of knots.
Even more enticingly, a backline reserve cupboard of
impatient, game-shy Pat Lambie, the slippery, jinking Juan de Jongh and flyhalf
wunderkind-in-the-making Johan Goosen seems to have rich potential for
Let’s just hope the horse hasn’t bolted by then.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans
Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane
Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip
van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Andries Strauss, 1 Tendai
MtawariraSubstitutes: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Dean Greyling, 18-Andries Bekker,
19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie
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