Rosy Bok dilemma over Mvovo

2015-08-17 12:56
Lwazi Mvovo (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – The win with an experimental combination in Buenos Aires provided a timely national tonic, but whether it will sway Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer to significantly adjust the World Cup “first team” he has in mind remains unlikely.

Truth be told, there is still every chance that the Bok XV for bigger clashes at RWC 2015 from next month will be made up largely of personnel who either didn’t feature at all in the match-day squad which saw off Argentina or – Tendai Mtawarira springs immediately to mind – operated only off the bench in the 26-12 triumph.

Players like Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen, Fourie du Preez and Willie le Roux, among one or two other heavyweight names, seem near lock-ins for the first-choice combo envisaged by the coach if properly fit, simply based on his consistent loyalty to them whenever available during his tenure.

You could feasibly argue that the world champion All Blacks demolishing neighbours Australia in the Bledisloe Cup decider was a matter of chalk and cheese when weighed up against the Bok performance – they tapered off a little after a sparkling first half -- in repelling the Pumas.

Yet we also saw enough to suggest that, when properly psyched-up as they ought to be when blue-chip RWC fixtures come along, South Africa can still mix it determinedly with the very best on the toughest tournament stage of them all.

Meyer is also not wrong in saying he will be able to assemble a powerful 31-man squad, to be revealed later this month after a further period in camp where conditioning will apparently be a major focus.

It is clear that he has a reasonably pleasant problem at No 10, for instance, where Pat Lambie (helped by a purposeful, dominant pack) played so well in Buenos Aires that he may be at least be level-pegging with Handre Pollard now for the pivot slot.

Similarly, those who suspect veteran lineout king Victor Matfield may be intended primarily as a calming second-half presence as a substitute for the key clashes in England, may be thinking again after his polished showing on Saturday.

Matfield managed the lineouts to his normal lofty standards, got involved in carrying play and can’t have scrummed too badly, either.

At very least it cranks up the debate over whether he or the fast-emerging youngster Lood de Jager should start at No 5.

Arguably the most illuminating effort from a supposedly “second-tier” Springbok in Argentina, however, came from Lwazi Mvovo, the Sharks flier who wore the No 14 jersey but played almost exclusively on the left.

He has been a bit of an on-and-off presence for the country since his debut in late 2010, earning 12 caps along the way, including Saturday’s where he registered one of his liveliest, most solid all-round performances yet.

Mvovo was part of a decently-organised back three defensive triumvirate with Zane Kirchner and the evergreen Bryan Habana, and in an attack capacity had plenty to do in the lead-up to his try, showing a combination of guile, elusiveness and determination to force the excellent touch-down in the first half.

He must be desperate to make it to a maiden World Cup shortly, as he missed out on the 2011 event and could be a bit long in the tooth by the time the 2019 tournament comes around.

The 29-year-old from Umtata has tended to be behind such customers as JP Pietersen and Cornal Hendricks in recent times for the “other” wing berth in alliance with perennial Habana.

But Hendricks has seemed to slip a bit down Meyer’s pecking order after once looking a fairly firm favourite; there is a perception that his healthy scent of the try-line is negatively offset by more limited work-rate and physical conviction.

Pietersen, meanwhile, probably remains the likeliest occupant of the No 14 jersey in Meyer’s desired A-team at RWC 2015, although he is presently in recovery from a hamstring problem.

If experience wins World Cups -- a theory Meyer has always assured Sport24 he largely subscribes to -- then the Sharks and Panasonic Wild Knights stalwart, a survivor of the 2007 RWC triumph where he was so lethal at times, seems a relative shoo-in.

But Pietersen has also looked short of the force of old in recent times, no longer puncturing defences consistently with those long, loping strides like he used to.

So there is the chance, maybe, that Mvovo will be allowed – at least in parts of the group phase for the Boks, and assuming he makes the actual squad cut – to cement his berth on the left, with Habana again confidently entrusted with operating on the other side of the park.

Strangely, Habana has sometimes revelled in the switch to the right for Test purposes; I seem to recall a few of his punchiest games for the Boks coming in that spot with the seasoned campaigner often finding greater space to operate in.

Mvovo and Habana extending their partnership from Buenos Aires?

It shouldn’t be written off ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  lwazi mvovo  |  rugby


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