Do you remember how long it took for coach Heyneke Meyer to bring Duane Vermeulen into the Bok side? Both Keegan Daniel and Willem Alberts were given a run at No 8 before bringing the Nelspruit born Chuck Norris of rugby in to play the Aussies in September 2012. This after sticking with Pierre Spies like pig poo sticks to a blanket. The same Spies who now cannot find a spot in a 49-man Bok squad.
Since then Vermeulen has not missed a Test and goes head to head with Kieran Read in the race for a spot in the Planet Earth XV to take on Mars. Until last Saturday that is. Hence the need to implement the plan for life after Vermeulen…
After an excellent Super Rugby season, Warren Whiteley was given a run against a makeshift World XV. While doing nothing wrong, he had a quiet game. So after the single start, he is now dropped not to the bench, but from the entire match-day squad.
And now according to Meyer, No 8 is Schalk Burger’s best position, so he is going to be given a trot in the only change to the run on side that did duty last week. So if No 8 is Burger’s best position, why has he not played there before?
Rotation is not about playing the next best when the incumbent is injured, it’s being brave enough to rest your first choice and give the next in line a run so you can test your back up plan and grow squad depth.
Did Meyer have a plan B for life after Vermeulen? It does not look that way.
Speaking of over playing incumbents. Would it not have made more sense to leave both Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira at home to pump some iron and trot along the Durban beaches?
Were last week’s game at Newlands not a friendly, Du Plessis would have been forced into a break via suspension for his cowardly and unnecessary clean-out of Bakkies Botha. Just based on that, he should be carrying bags this weekend. Or do the Boks only have to be disciplined during big games?
That notwithstanding, by playing him every week, are we not pushing ourselves into a similar corner to the one we find ourselves in with Vermeulen? Some would say his form and discipline issues alone should see him fighting for a position rather than owning one, but would a logical rotation not see Vincent Koch, who did nothing wrong last week, start, with Frans Malherbe on the bench?
On the other side of the front row, in Heinke van der Merwe we have a man that can certainly scrum! And with reports suggesting he has been in great form in France, it’s great to see him getting another stab at the cherry after debuting for the Boks in 2007. But why not behind Trevor Nyakane who benched last week, but is now a tourist in Brisbane?
Props can definitely have an impact off the bench, but the true test of their ability comes via a start. So what will Meyer actually learn by having Van der Merwe and Malherbe on the bench? He is playing his starting front row into the ground with developing a credible back up plan.
Next week we play the All Blacks at home in a game that will drive massive interest. Would an away game against an experimental Australia side in a Rugby World Cup year which sees the Rugby Championship downgraded to a side show, not have been a better game to try something new?
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.
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