Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
De Jongh is a Bok 'must'
Cape Town – Never mind just select him, Juan de Jongh may well have earned the right to be pencilled in as first-choice centre for the Springboks’ Vodacom Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand at Soweto in a fortnight.
Certainly he looks the right stuff as a freshening presence for the Boks as they begin the journey to redemption after a shocking away leg of the competition.
With the squad for the home Tests expected to be announced on Sunday, De Jongh could not have chosen a better time to remind the national brains trust of his potential as he starred in Western Province’s 50-3 battering of Griquas in their supposed Absa Currie Cup stronghold of Kimberley on Saturday.
Inside centre, outside centre … it doesn’t really matter. With Wynand Olivier less than inspiring at No 12 of late and De Jongh’s Newlands-based colleague Jaque Fourie ruled out of the No 13 jersey through suspension for the encounter with the All Blacks, the 22-year-old simply must play.
He has already shown his comfort in either berth at first-class level, possessing as he does the defensive relish for the “closer” channel, plus speed and elusiveness for the wider role.
De Jongh was as effervescent and purposeful as ever as the log-leaders, now sporting five wins from five outings, tightened their early grip on the competition in some style.
They are looking like a clinical machine at present, well-drilled and sharply motivated throughout their ranks, and if it was the proverbial game of two halves, to some extent, then De Jongh showed his prowess in both.
First he tackled and scrambled like a demon as the street-smart Province absorbed the initial kitchen-sink bombardment from Griquas – the 12-3 situation in the visitors’ favour at the interval was all down to penalties – but then he was one of the architects of WP’s great verve and penetration in the second half.
Remarkably, considering that the opening try came as late as the 48th minute, with De Jongh rounding off a move from a long pass with the necessary thrust and power, Anton van Zyl’s side then joyously added five more.
The second was a beauty, with Province sparking the raid from deep in their own territory, and De Jongh featuring at least twice as the ball switched from one set of hands to another and an array of angles were run.
Reserve hooker Deon Fourie dotted down the crowd-pleasing move from a brilliant back-flip pass by No 8 Duane Vermeulen, another WP player who is pressing forcefully for Bok honours as a school of thought grows that he has a broader all-round game in the vital position than incumbent Pierre Spies.
It would, of course, be premature and inappropriate to start suggesting the national side be loaded up with Province players simply on the strength of their bright start to the domestic competition.
Indeed, anyone in Pretoria would be fully entitled to point out that they haven’t won any silverware yet and that the Bulls, instead, are the defending Super 14 and Currie Cup champions.
But if some of the Boks’ problems have been down to their fall-away in discipline and execution of once-trusted basics recently, then a number of Test “possibles” from down Cape Town way have been benefiting from the excellent professionalism and savvy injected into the WP side by the likes of Allister Coetzee, Matthew Proudfoot and Robbie Fleck.
Certainly in Kimberley a number of Province players stuck up their hands for Springbok consideration, including Conrad Jantjes at fullback.
This was arguably the game where Jantjes, no stranger to a green-and-gold jersey, confirmed he has mended both physically and psychologically from his horror leg-break in the Super 14 last year.
He was assured on defence and is now restoring dynamism to his game in attacking situations, something that Zane Kirchner struggled to do for South Africa in the Tri-Nations overseas leg.
Gio Aplon was hungry and incisive on the right wing, although he also enters the No 15 picture, you would think, for the Soccer City outing on August 21.
Both Vermeulen and Francois Louw did no harm to their quests for Bok loose forward spots, although there was a case for saying the unsung Pieter Louw was perhaps the best of the three WP men in that department against Griquas.
But De Jongh to be unleashed on the All Blacks? Surely the gutsy little package from Paarl is a certainty now …