Boks in UK

Boks to hold big guns back?

2013-11-11 07:45
Jean de Villiers (AFP)
Cape Town - While having to guard against riling the passionate Scots by naming too much of a “second string” for Murrayfield next Sunday, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer should also not be dissuaded from any temptation to experiment in the longer-term interest.

As it happened: Wales v SA

With due respect for the possibility of slipping on the proverbial banana peel - this writer witnessed it happen to South Africa in a miserably frigid Edinburgh in 2010 - this always looked the least demanding of the Boks’ three European tour fixtures on paper, and to some extent they must plan accordingly.

Frankly, the second best team in the world at present should expect to be able to douse the Scots’ fire while resting a handful of senior personnel for the tricky demand of a mere six-day turnaround to the finale of the itinerary in France.

Some Bok stalwarts will be close to running on empty at the end of another arduous season, especially after the defensive demands on the team in Saturday’s successful opener against Wales on a wretched Millennium Stadium surface.

It really does seem to make sense for Meyer, as he has already hinted he will, to alter his starting brew to a fair degree: he is well capable of putting out a team that still lacks little in experience and credibility, while also serving the purpose of giving some relative rookies the rare responsibility of stepping up in a starting capacity after mostly featuring as substitutes at this stage of their Bok careers.

Names falling into that category include centre Jan Serfontein, flank Siya Kolisi and versatile front-ranker Coenie Oosthuizen - it would be seriously enlightening to see them given the lion’s share of a game rather than mere cameos.

Should Meyer wish to persevere with the raw Frans Malherbe at tighthead, after his perfectly acceptable debut against Wales, I would advocate Oosthuizen getting a crack in his still more familiar loosehead role, where dynamic ball-carrying (something the hefty Cheetahs man revels in) becomes a likelier feature.

Although that game all of six years ago now was more of a white-knuckle ride than many Springbok fans would have wished, there is a case for saying South Africa can afford to emulate the strategy employed by Jake White in the World Cup 2007 pool game against Tonga - keep the established senior “cavalry” close at hand via the bench, for the sake of preserving their freshness for challenges just a little further ahead, but still be in a position to summon them to the fray in the event of difficulty.

It worked in Lens then (nobody needs reminding who went on to win the tournament, either) as a few collywobbles among an experimental starting Bok line-up simply led to juggernauts like John Smit, Victor Matfield, Juan Smith, Bryan Habana and Percy Montgomery turning “supersubs” to rumble into action en masse and finally subdue the spirited Pacific Islanders.

Would it really be too high-risk to start the Scotland match with a significantly changed Bok XV - one that wouldn’t even look particularly callow, note - and have the comfort of knowing such hard-working 2013 icons as Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth can be cotton-woolled yet infused in a second-half “emergency” if need be?

Using them in Edinburgh as reserves, a rare event, would probably only enhance, at this point in the rugby year, the likelihood of freshness and eagerness on their part for the task in Paris.

Captain and veteran, consistently impressive midfielder De Villiers is crying out - not literally, for he is famously uncomplaining -- more than others for a break of sorts and the Boks would not massively be disadvantaged by the up-and-coming Serfontein starting at No 12, and perhaps with that admirable squad man Adriaan Strauss beginning at hooker for Du Plessis and also serving as skipper on the day.

Similarly, if there is any thought to a starting debut at No 5 lock for Pieter-Steph du Toit this weekend, why not pair him with that gnarly old scrapper Bakkies Botha, he of 76 Test caps and a great deal of recent experience of playing in European conditions for Toulon?

Just how Meyer constructs his run-on XV could depend to a strong degree, of course, on the traditional Monday medical update: just for instance, clarity is sought on Morne Steyn’s back spasms and whether he is deemed a realistic candidate for Murrayfield as a result.

If there is any risk, why not simply stick with Pat Lambie in the flyhalf channel after he ended up switching there for around an hour of the Wales game from fullback anyway?

Meyer may well prove not nearly so cavalier, if that is the right word, when he names his line-up but I would suggest this sort of Bok XV, coupled with the security of an unusually star-studded bench, is well capable of both winning at Murrayfield and providing some educative future pointers:

15 Willie le Roux/Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie/Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


Read more on:    springboks  |  boks on tour  |  rugby


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