Cape Town - I like the look of Allister Coetzee’s latest Bok squad, and I really enjoy the fact that he had the stones to give big name players like Willie le Roux and JP Pietersen the chop. Both are classy, but out of form, and it’s important that the Boks do not become an exclusive club.
It’s great to see Malcolm Marx and Johan Goosen getting a look in. Both are in exceptional form having proved their worth in their respective provincial sides, hence being contenders for the starting XV, let alone match-day 23.
How Lwazi Mvovo did not join his back three buddies on the chopping board is beyond me. Hopelessly out of form yet keeping players like Jamba Ulengo, Bjorn Basson and Courtnall Skosan out?
In fact, I would have had two of those promising wings in the squad ahead of Bryan Habana, but one can understand Coetzee chasing the safety of a few caps out wide, especially as the rest of the back three are likely to be quite green.
The Harry Crocker is the non-selection of Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who has been in sublime form for the Vodacom Super Rugby finalists - bullocking power, a turn of pace, and the ability to offload in the tackle. I would have had him ahead of Damien de Allende who could do with some time building his confidence in the Currie Cup.
Another deserving of his call up is Lourens Adriaanse, even if a little late, and he would be another that I would fast track into my starting XV. The Sharks got it incredibly wrong this year by selecting Coenie Oosthuizen ahead of Adriaanse, and paid the price. Not showy, Adriaanse ticks the primary box of a tighthead prop - scrumming. Right shoulder on your own ball, disruption via a wheel or eight-man shove on the opposition ball. Keep the theatrics for the bench.
That said, Julian Redelinghuys has been in fantastic form all season for a power Lions scrum, and no one could complain were he to be given a start. Vincent Koch is making his way back from a scratchy scrumming patch, and with Frans Malherbe injured, it’s fantastic to have these three tightheads at the ready.
And with the likes of Dylan Smith, Charles Marais, Ox Nche and Oli Kebble waiting in the wings at loosehead, this “prop crisis” that Coetzee alluded to during the week is miles off the mark. He is the same guy who said: “Like Trevor, Lourens can play on both sides of the scrum”, though. No they can’t, and more importantly, neither is there any need for them to do so in 23-man squads!
So given the 31-man squad selected, this is the side I would select:
Boks: 15: Jesse Kriel, 14: Ruan Combrinck, 13: Lionel Mapoe, 12: Damian de Allende, 11: Bryan Habana, 10: Johan Goosen, 9: Faf de Klerk, 8: Warren Whiteley (captain), 7: Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6: Jaco Kriel, 5: Franco Mostert, 4: Eben Etzebeth, 3: Lourens Adriaanse, 2: Malcolm Marx, 1: Steven Kitshoff
Bench: Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira, Julian Redelinghuys, Sikhumbuzo Notshe/Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Juan de Jongh
Forwards: Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Lood de Jager, Oupa Mohoje,
Backs: Rudy Paige, Lwazi Mvovo, Morne Steyn
The Boks tend to play better with a big bruiser of a ball carrier at No 7 and I think it’s worth giving Du Toit a shot, especially with so many good locks in the squad. Another option would be to play Vermeulen at No 7, which would not scare me at all.
Jantjies has been excellent for the Lions this year, but showed in the final that he still has a bit to go in terms of his defence, controlling a game, and varying his attacking play in the face of a speedy defensive line. Goosen has been playing alongside Dan Carter and was voted one of the Top 14 Players of the Season.
How much “Lions rugby” will Coetzee add to the Bok mix? I am guessing not much, but it’s going to be a fascinating Rugby Championship. Time to see if these Boks have what it takes!
Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.