JJ Harmse

Springbok opportunity knocks

2012-04-26 12:47
Sport24 columnist JJ Harmse (File)
It probably was only coincidence that Heyneke Meyer was singing the praises of some younger players in the South African franchises on the same day that the national Under-20 side was announced to play in the IRB Junior World Championships in June.

Meyer after all was speaking in Pretoria during a training camp with Sharks and Bulls Super Rugby players, while in Stellenbosch, Dawie Theron announced his team to play in the tournament that will be hosted by South Africa, with matches being played at the university fields of Stellenbosch and Western Cape.

Meyer has never been scared to play young players in his teams when he believed them to be good enough (remember Derick Hougaard, Pedrie Wannenburg or Gary Botha to name a few), so it is not that strange to hear him talk about some young guns who has impressed him thus far.

He also admitted that a whole range of injuries to some very experienced players has depleted the original squad he had in mind. Added to that, the administrative issues around overseas-based players proved to be an unexpected obstacle and some of them, most famously Jaque Fourie, have withdrawn from the Test arena for a couple of years.

This might force Meyer’s hand when it comes to selecting his side for the England Test series, with younger players coming into the mix now.

It was no secret that Fourie was one of the first names on Meyer’s team sheet and that a new name will have to be added there.

There are of course, a couple of other experienced midfielders still playing some solid rugby and depending on the injury to Jean de Villiers, the Stormers player might be considered at outside centre.

Juan de Jongh, Wynand Olivier, JP Pietersen, Pat Lambie and even Bryan Habana could be considered due to their Test match experience, while youngsters like Robert Ebersohn, Jaco Taute, JJ Engelbrecht, Johann Sadie and Francois Venter will certainly be looked at.

At least the coach has some options here in that he can say, play Ebersohn or Taute outside of De Villiers or Olivier or whatever combination he sees fit.

The same applies to the broad spread of loose forwards.

We have incumbents in Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts and Heinrich Brüssow, already capped players like Jean Deysel, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann and Ashley Johnson and a host of other very good candidates.

Unfortunately Duane Vermeulen’s injury might cost him another call-up, there is uncertainty surrounding Schalk Burger and Ryan Kankowski is only coming back from injury this weekend.

But there are others in the shape of Marcel Coetzee, Jacques Potgieter, Derick Minnie and CJ Stander that have impressed over the last couple of weeks, so again it will not be that difficult for Meyer to combine experience with youth should he feel the need to do so.

He will not have that luxury in some other positions though.

We are well covered at loosehead and hooker, but not at tighthead and lock. Jokes can be made about the possible comeback of Victor Matfield, but reality is that this idea of Meyer is much more pro-active than originally thought.

He has Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha and Johann Muller as overseas cover, I suppose, but the reality is that bar Andries Bekker, there is very little experience to help the likes of Eben Etzebeth or Juandré Kruger into a Test series against England.

Unfortunately for Meyer, the Junior World Cup is held at the same time as his Test series against England and to grab players out of the national Under-20 squad (say Johan Goosen or Steven Kitshoff) might not be the best idea for either squad.

Overall, the coach will have to get that balance right and in order to achieve this he might finish up with a squad that does not reflect current Super Rugby form in every position.

It does also, while casting an eye to the Rugby Championship (the new-look Tri-Nations), provide the JWC squad an ideal opportunity to impress the national coach.

If say, Goosen dominates at the JWC, he could easily be playing Rugby Championship rugby a couple of weeks later.

Opportunity is knocking, the question is, who will open that door?

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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Read more on:    springboks  |  super 15  |  jj harmse  |  rugby


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