Cape Town – He probably had at least nine tenths of his European tour-squad personnel firmly inked even before the Currie Cup final kicked off.
But if he was retaining an open mind for the showpiece in Durban on Saturday, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee ought to have made several significant, last-ditch scribbles after Western Province’s stirring, come-from-behind 33-21 triumph over the Sharks.
Coetzee is due to reveal his hand for the four-Test mission, starting against Ireland in Dublin on November 11, at lunchtime on Sunday, and if there were any remaining yardsticks he might have found useful at the eleventh hour, these were probably among them …
*Wilco Louw MUST now be first-choice tighthead
Respected SuperSport pundits Nick Mallett and Victor Matfield pointed it out, and there will surely be others: Louw produced such a juggernaut showing at tighthead prop for WP (yes, Huw Jones was excellent, but why does player-of-the-match always seem to go to a “glory boy” in a double-figure jersey?!) that he seems a shoe-in for the Bok scrum-anchoring role against the Irish. Certainly the penalty-prone Ruan Dreyer no longer seems the appropriate candidate for the No 3 job. The behemoth youngster from the Koue Bokkeveld stayed on the park for 77 minutes – a long shift for these particular specimens – which was simply a further tribute to his majesty at scrum-time against outfoxed, at least on the day, Thomas du Toit. Louw even won a superb turnover a minute before he left the scene of his triumphant afternoon.
*Dan du Preez, with his twin brother doubtful, seems an even better bet now for a tour spot
Look, he didn’t have an especially impactful final. (It was also probably the last nail in the Sharks’ coffin when he was yellow-carded for an off-the-ball tackle in the closing stages with the hosts under pressure.) But with twin sibling Jean-Luc forced from the field in the 22nd minute, and talk of four weeks on the sidelines with his ankle-ligament issue, Dan may now “replace” his brother even if both might well have earned passages anyway. Like Jean-Luc, he offers possibilities both at eight and seven, and bear in mind that their physical proportions are almost identical.
*Nizaam Carr has fought tooth and nail for recall
Another Currie Cup Saturday (the biggest of the season) … and just another thoroughly professional, deeply industrious showing at No 8 from WP’s Carr. At a time when Bok stocks are depleted in the jersey, he stands apart from most others domestically in the berth right now for sheer comfort and intelligence in the specialist role. Why keep experimenting with makeshift characters in the spot? It is true that a couple more kilos and centimetres from Carr might have come in handy for brutal, forward-dominated contests in the wet, but at the same time he lacks nothing in courage or durability. He showed great vision to break away on the blind-side, off a retreating scrum, to tee up Cobus Wiese’s 51st-minute try and came within a whisker of a dot-down himself in the first half, when only some grim defending from Garth April and Jacques Vermeulen stopped him from grassing the ball over the line.
*Robert du Preez is better suited that Curwin Bosch to Euro conditions
Bosch is a phenomenal rugby prospect at 20, and maybe he is already guaranteed a tour ticket by “Toetie”. But for all the positive things (and there were a few) he did at flyhalf in the final, the Bok one-capper still demonstrated glaring – and costly -- defensive shortcomings at times on Saturday. One gremlin in that area can be the difference between victory and defeat in a tight, low-scoring, gloomy European winter Test match. The in-form, more robust and direct Du Preez eclipsed Bosch on an all-round basis in the showpiece. He would be a smarter horse for the northern “course” … although Jantjies-Pollard-Bosch may already be the No 10 crew cast in stone by the Bok brains trust.
*Damian Willemse would be an appealing, attacking ‘mystery man’ against northern foes
A little bit of unpredictability does no harm … and it is not as though the current Bok backline is teeming with that. The twinkle-toed fullback was a real handful to the Sharks in the final, with his swerving qualities and sound footballing acumen at times, into the bargain. He was a key lead-up contributor -- with a clever shift of body weight and high offload -- to Dillyn Leyds’ important try for Province right on the halftime hooter. Take at least one teenager (and a versatile one, at that) on tour? Why on earth not? That said, I suspect Willemse more likely has to wait for a crack until next year …
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