Heinrich Brussow (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Springbok squad named for the upcoming Rugby World Cup was a big talking point among rugby enthusiasts this past weekend.
Coach Heyneke Meyer no doubt had a tough task attempting to find the right mixture between form and experience.
Meyer was also under pressure to meet transformation requirements and according to SARU’s strategic transformation plan, the “target” for this year’s World Cup was 30% players of colour.
Whether it was a target or a specific requirement, there’s no doubt the Bok coach had to consider the transformation requirements when naming his squad.
Meyer named Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Siya Kolisi, Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Damian de Allende and Rudy Paige as players of colour in his squad for the showpiece event in England and Wales.
That adds up to 9* players which meets the 30% requirement.
Sixteen members of the 31-man squad, 12 of whom made their Test debuts under Meyer since 2012, will have their first taste of Rugby World Cup action.
However, the squad still boasts enough experience to be able to compete in the showpiece event in England and Wales.
It features three Test centurions in skipper Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana.
Matfield and Burger will take part in their fourth Rugby World Cup, with De Villiers, Habana, Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis playing in their third, while six players who featured in 2011 are back for their second tournament.
There were, however, a few players this writer feels can consider themselves unlucky not to be selected:
The Stormers' Siya Kolisi is a tad lucky to gain the nod ahead of the Free Stater who was a standout performer this year.
Reinach lost out to the uncapped Rudy Paige who was picked as the third scrumhalf alongside Ruan Pienaar and Fourie du Preez.
Sadly, it appears that Paige was only picked to make up the quota demands.
Reinach was on the Springbok bench throughout this year’s international season, with his last Test being the 26-12 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires.
While Paige showed excellent form for the Bulls in Super Rugby, the selection is tough on Reinach. Paige should at least have been given game time earlier in the international season.
Jantjies performed well for the Lions in Super Rugby and given the fact that Morne Steyn is unlikely to play a big part at the event, Jantjies would have been the ideal pick with transformation in mind. Unlike the case of Paige, the merits of Jantjies’ inclusion would not have been questioned.
He hasn’t been in the best of form and the untimely death of his brother did not help matters, but I still feel his experience and prodigious boot will be missed in northern hemisphere conditions.
The extent of Coetzee’s knee injury is still vague at this stage and I hope that is the sole reason for his exclusion. A fully-fit Coetzee should have gone to the World Cup.
Ntubeni could have been picked ahead of Schalk Brits as the third hooker. As it the case of Morne Steyn, Brits is unlikely to get a lot of game time at the tournament.
The selection of Ntubeni would also have helped with the transformation issue and perhaps have opened up a few spots elsewhere in the squad...
Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch
The two Stormers props had stellar seasons and can count themselves unlucky. Kitshoff’s knee injury came at the wrong time, while Koch's sole bad game against Argentina in Durban likely cost him a spot in the final touring party.
Springbok 31-man Rugby World Cup squad:
Willem Alberts, Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Lood de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield (vice-captain), Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen
Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian de Allende, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Jesse Kriel, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn
*Despite recent media reports indicating otherwise, it has officially been confirmed to Sport24 that Damian de Allende is considered as a player of colour.