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Daniel must step up as poacher

2012-08-21 22:12
Cape Town - Keegan Daniel had a fairly subdued starting debut at No 8 for the Springboks last Saturday... he will be expected to only step up his performance against Argentina in the return Castle Rugby Championship match in Mendoza on Saturday if he receives a vote of confidence.

It would be a surprise, when coach Heyneke Meyer names his side on Wednesday, if the all-Sharks loose trio which turned out at Newlands is broken up.

There may be just a temptation to really hit the Pumas with a “freight-train” trio this time, comprising Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts (in a switch to eight from blindside flank) and a recall for rugged Bulls No 7 Jacques Potgieter.

That would mean an early sidelining from the elite XV for Daniel, the whippet of the bunch, and it is hard to see Meyer, who is a great believer in continuity and stability, altering the status quo from the Cape Town Test, duly won 27-6 by the Boks.

There is still some pressure on him from elements of the media and public for his charges to be a little more free-spirited and charismatic at times, and omitting Daniel so quickly would only aggravate thoughts that the coach overly favours brawn and “structure” over flair and instinct.

It is well known that Daniel, diminutive yet big-hearted - and yes, even no slouch in the lineout despite his physical disadvantage in some respects - can be a terrific tearaway and linking loose forward; last Saturday was perhaps simply a case of opportunities to underline those credentials not really coming his way.

If Meyer feels at a fairly advanced stage of the Mendoza clash that Daniel is struggling to make a genuine impact, he is free to do what he did at Newlands and substitute him again for Potgieter, who did fly into rucks and tackles with a kamikaze-like zeal soon after his appearance on the park even if he is reasonably one-dimensional.

We have seen before that Alberts is able to make the shift to No 8 very seamlessly under those circumstances, albeit that he is a rather different beast to his Sharks captain Daniel.

But with a bit of luck the last-named player will come more into his own against the Argentineans in their own habitat, where they may be a tad more adventurous themselves in pursuit of an upset win than last week, when it seemed at times they were content - either purposely or subconsciously - to keep the score down to respectable proportions on their historic entry to the premier southern hemisphere competition.

But another reason for retaining confidence in Daniel, particularly at this time when various quality Bok loose forwards of either vast or more modest experience are on the crocked list, is that his versatile credentials as an open-side sort of “scavenger” may be needed more than they were last Saturday.

That is because of the mortifying loss for many months of senior hooker Bismarck du Plessis who, in terms of the current structure of the Bok side with no out-and-out specialist mole at No 6, could have been considered the primary ball-stealer with his immense upper-body strength.

Of course his replacement Adriaan Strauss is a worthy filler of the No 2 void for the next few months, assuming that he maintains his own known standards, but he is less prolific than Du Plessis at pilfering.

So Daniel coming to the party in that department, given his great stealth and restless energy, may be necessary if the lobby favouring employment of a true fetcher by South Africa are not to be given huge ammunition through any difficulties experienced on Saturday...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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