Shortcomings in Tri-Nations build-up


The Winter Tours in the Southern Hemisphere is a thing of the past, with a clear advantage to the Southern Hemisphere in the results, except for an Australian hickup against England in the 2nd Test and 2 results for Scotland against Argentina. The rest of the results all went the way of the Southern Hemisphere.

I am still not fully happy though with the Springbok run-up to the Tri-Nations and think our National coach missed some opportunities in selecting or establishing the true pecking order in a few positions.

In the front row, loosehead is well and truly sorted out, with Gurthro Steenkamp and Beast Mtawarira, but the other 2 positions, that of hooker and tighthead prop is a worry.

As reserve hooker Chiliboy is now established in the position but would it not have served the Bokke better to have gone with either Gary Botha or Tiaan Liebenberg as backup. These players were after all the 1st choice players for their respective Franchises and showed wonderful form during the whole Super 14.

At tighthead Jannie du Plessis and BJ Botha are now the chosen ones but BJ Botha did not set the world alight… in my mind the Winter Tours were the ideal opportunity to experiment with new blood in this position and Werner Kruger of the Bulls can consider himself unlucky not to have been given the opportunity to show whether he could step up to the plate and make the depth and quality in this position better.

At lock and in the backrow forwards I have no complaints.

At scumhalf, the Bokke are probably most porous, considering the world’s best scrumhalf, Fourie du Preez is out with a lenghty injury. His tactical nous, decision making ability and tactical boot will be sorely missed and a player should have been selected who plays a game which closely mimics Fourie du Preez’ game, in order to achieve close to the same result… that player is non other than Ruan Pienaar. In stead, Ricky January, the nuggety and instinctive “Meercat” has been employed throughout and Ruan is being messed around once again between fullback, flyhalf and scrumhalf substitution. It is just potently wrong and unforgivable.

At flyhalf there’s Morné Steyn, the points machine, but what happens in the event he gets injured…. does Ruan get the nod or does Butch get the not? I don’t even think Peter de Villiers is sure about this one. Butch has not added much to the Bokke, to be frank! It would probably have served the Bokke better had Peter Grant been involved right throughout the Winter Tours, with Ruan exclusively playing at scrumhalf.

Inside centre (No 12) is also still a lottery, with 3 players vying for a spot here, Wynand Olivier, Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers. Who is the incumbant? By now the midfield combination between one of the 3 and Jaque Fourie at outside centre should have been running like clockwork.

Depth at outside centre is another problem area should Jaque Fourie be injured. Jean de Villiers never impressed at No 13 and at the moment I suppose Juan de Jongh would have the inside track on filling that void.

At left wing Bryan Habana is clearly the No 1 choice and Francois Hougaard provides very good cover in that position.

At right wing Gio Aplon seems to be the man in the saddle, with Jean de Villiers as cover… but Jean is a natural inside centre, not a true wing.

In the last vestage Zane Kirchner should be the man in the saddle, with Gio Aplon covering that position in event of an injury, then exposing the right wing as very iffy as far as replacements go.

The bottomline is we could have had more established combinations going forward, more depth developed and certainly at scrumhalf a better run-on option established.

I’m not saying I am unhappy about Peter’s squad in general, in fact I would only possibly have made 3 or 4 changes overall, but rhytm and continuity should have been established now already, with these same available players!

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  1. Long time since I blogged here… sorry… but I thought I would do more than blog, I would write something decent to discuss, seeing as I get such good input from Morné Pismier on my own site as well from time to time.

  2. I dont know if I agree so much with your overall point as summed up in your last paragraph.

    De Villiers could have easily played known and trusted combinations in certain position which would have left us with as many questions as we would have had before the tours started.

    This refers specifically to the 12/13 combination.

    We know exactly what JDV and Mossie are capable of, where I am in agreement is that Meisiekind deserved a longer run at 12 and not De Jongh, who is not a 12 but a 13.

    If anything, Meisiekind should have clearly been made JDV’s deputy and De Jongh Mossie’s and that combination (Meisiekind at 12 and De Jongh at 13) should have received at least 120 minutes of rugby.

    I think fears were largely squashed as to our back up at hooker (remember Chili is behind Bismarck who is currently injured) and we have very capable and experienced players at tighthead – I see no need to have thrown a youngster like Kruger in there where our experienced guys in BJ and Jannie would have gained much more from the game time which they did.

    Gio for me is at best a bench player covering both wings and fullback, not a bad guy to take on tour but Zane, Bryan are starters and also remember, we are missing JPP to injury currently as well as a host of other wings like Mapoe, Ndungane’s etc.

    Butch is a 10 that can cover center and comes with loads of experience.

    Ruan I think has to be happy now knowing that he is a utility player covering 9, 10 and the back three.

    The contentious issue regarding Ricky to me is quite simple.

    When any 9 is measured against Fourie du Preez they will come up way short, as Ricky is doing now.

    But given the last 4 tests, of which Ricky and the whole Bok team had one shocker in Witbank what performances by which scrumhalf in the Super 14 suggests in any way that anyone else would have been a better choice at 9 through stand out performances in that position through the Super 14 of 2010?

    Ricky is not FDP – no-one ever will be for that matter – but he is certainly not the worst option around given his experience and form he showed in 3 of the last 4 tests.

  3. Reply to Morné @ 12:10 pm:

    Agree on Meisiekind.
    He’s also the best defender
    in midfield.

    Grudgingly agree on Meerkat.

    I hope Zane does not get injured
    and that Aplon will only play
    wing from the bench.

    We really need a stand-out 15
    come WC. Hopefully Lambie gets
    a chance on the EOYT.

  4. Reply to Morné @ 12:10 pm: Pismier, I’m not so sure Jean is first choice inside centre to combine with Mossie at outside centre anymore…. after 4 Winter Tests we should have had that fact established or a new inside centre well and truly established next to Mossie.

    To me BJ Botha and Ricky Januarie were the 2 most disapointing Bokke in the last 4 Tests. I have to face facts though and that is that Jannie’s scrummaging has improved at tighthead (ggod for us), but I’m of the opinion that BJ Botha has regressed, that being my motivation behing testing someone there… should he have failed we would still have sat with Jannie and BJ only… now we sit with Jannie and BJ only anyway.

    You are certainly spot-on that nobody can replace Fourie du Preez adequately… but a replacement should have been utilized who playes nearest to the TYPE of game or PATTERN which Fourie utilizes so successfully. Ricky plays on instinct rather than guile and tactical nous.

    Butch does not need to cover centre, hell we have 4 centres already, most of them very versatile to cover either centre or even wing.

    Gio will have to stand in at wing till a Mapoe or a Mvovo is ready…. and by the way I’m discarding JP Pietersen in total, not only is he injured but he had an aweful season before injury. Gio is also better than any of the Ndungane’s.

    In the hooker berth, Bismarck needs to come back from a disapointing Super 14 season, plagued with dicipline problems and now an operation…. so I would still have opted for Gary Botha or Tiaan Liebenberg ahead of Chiliboy… even though he performed quite OK.

  5. Reply to grootblousmile @ 12:26 pm:

    Look I cannot read PDV’s mind but I will almost put my house on the fact that Jean and Mossie is his first choice combo.

    Well we do not agree on Ricky and BJ, they were not the most disappointing Boks in the last 4 tests. Our scrums did well and at times dominated the two best NH packs from the recent 6 Nations. Nothing in the AB or Aus scrum scares me enough to warrant being worried about our scrumming.

    And again I will state what I said about Ricky before – he is by no means FDP, no-one will be, but if we are looking for honest reasons to either drop, or retain a player in the last 4 tests Ricky has done more to be retained than to be dropped.

    So firstly on him, there is no reason to drop him given his performances which has been adequate and there is really no-one who is kicking down the door on current form to drop him either – so why do it?

    If given a choice who I would like to cover Morne between Ruan and Butch, I would choose Butch any day. Don’t forget Ruan’s recent form is not that great either…

    Most of our good wingers will come back from injury so again no panic.

    And again, Chili acquitted himself nicely in 120 minutes of rugby he was afforded.

    Other than Bismarck which brings a totally different and unique dynamic to the Boks no other hooker does in his strength with ball in hand and play in the tight loose I have to ask what, if anything, Gary or Tiaan would have brought to the Boks Chili has not given or shown us in 120 minutes of test rugby.

    My guess is very little if anything.

    Personally I think Tiaan Liebenberg is not a great hooker. Gary had a great season for the Bulls but again, what would he have brought to the Boks Chili has not given us in 120 minutes of rugby he played in the 4 tests?

  6. Reply to Morné @ 12:37 pm: Clearly our opinions differ and rightly it should.

    I’m not dissing Snorrie or his squad, in fact in general his 28-man squad is sound….

    I cannot get past one stumbling block in my mind though, and that is WHY Chilliboy (3rd choice at Bulls) and Ricky (2nd choice at Stormers) were selected in the first instance. That speaks of favouratism and clear bias… nobody will convince me otherwise.

    Butch, to me…. has shot his bolt… overs cadovers for him in my mind and he simply did nothing which impressed me, in fact he has only shown me he is not a good choice at inside centre and also that he is still a yellow card liability.

    Hey, it seems that you are almost 100% happy with the way things went…. well consider my viewpoint, I’m about 80% happy with preparations, could have been slightly better.

  7. “but he is certainly not the worst option around given his experience and form he showed in 3 of the last 4 tests.”

    I’ve told you many times… set your standards higher than that…

    I gave him kudos for seemingly improving his pass to stock standard this last test against a team ranked lower than Fiji…

    He’s not the first choice for his union and doubt he’d be for any of the S14 teams even the Lions…

  8. Reply to grootblousmile @ 12:49 pm:

    It is not new that second or third choice players have received call up for Bok colours or caps now or in the past (before PDV).

    Some coaches rate players and others dont, the question is who is right, and who is wrong? Or can we even ask that question?

    It seems to be a general feeling that the Bok coach, whoever he might be, has to select players in positions that player’s union coach selects him in.

    Can it be that union coaches also gets it wrong at times?

    Perhaps (or more correctly) it might actually have to do that players moving from one level to the next, or one team to the next, plays in a different environment with different game plans and strategies – so if a player does not fit into a union coach’s plans because of that player’s strengths (or weakness) what is to say he will not perform in a different environment, with a different coach with a different game plan or strategy?

    Fact is, coaches will be judged on results, and so far players PDV trusted in within his team and his structures have produced results – similarly different players did the same at union level too but it does not mean the union coaches are right all the time – and the national coach wrong now does it?

    I dont rate Duvenhage at the Stormers, he is about 1 or 2 seasons away from any higher honours – similarly I do not rate Liebenberg, I think Deon Fourie is a much better hooker but Allister selected them and they produced results.

    For years Danie has been second choice at the Bulls, but he has been continually selected for the Boks – a lot of the times out of position too if we think about it ahead of performing, or in form Super rugby players (I am thinking loosies specifically here which Danie covered quite a bit for the Boks) who were never given a look-in.

    Hell even a Frans Steyn who could not hold down one position in the Sharks was continually selected ahead of specialists for the Boks, just think World Cup 2007!

    As for Butch, I think he adds value to the Boks. He has had a good season at Bath and given the only real back-up we seem to have at 10 in Peter Grant who in my opinion offers very little even at Super rugby level I will take Butch thanks.

  9. Reply to bryce_in_oz @ 12:49 pm:

    I have made my point quite clearly on this.

    Provide me with players who are kicking the door down based on current form for the 9 jersey and I will be most interested.

    And the argument that he is not first choice at his union was also covered in my post. Something that holds little water for me.

  10. I watched Butch playing for Bath and he looked really good at 10, but purely on playing ability I think it is a gamble that is being done here.

    That said, who else? RP has not exactly stepped up to the plate at 10 and Peter Grant is also not exactly setting the world on fire consistently.

  11. Reply to Morné @ 1:02 pm: Friend, I know coaches have chosen 2nd choice players before, but let me play out a scenario here…

    I rate SA hookers as follws in order of CURRANT form (injured hookers not considered)

    1. Gary Botha
    2. Tiaan Liebenberg
    3. John Smit (he gets elevated to No 1 only due to captaincy ability)
    4. Deon Fourie
    5. Bandise Maku
    6. Chiliboy Ralepelle

    (Hookers not considered who would ALL slot in above Chiliboy are: Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss)

    I’m not the only one who sees this hooker travesty this way, though some others might differ in the exact pecking order, but Chilli would mostly rate as low as 6th in most books.

    There is a clear attempt to bring this man through, whatever the situation, whatever the true reflection is, whatever the cost.

    Same is happening with Hargreaves at lock, that boytjie is being fast-tracked beyond comprehension.. He should not be allowed near a Bokke squad practise, let alone the squad itself. Damn he is about 5th in the queue of No 5 lock and probably does not even resort under the top 10 locks in SA overall.

    As far as scrummie goes, let’s look at the possibilities who are not envolved at the Bokke yet…

    1. Jano Vermaak
    2. Sarel Pretorius
    3. Rory Kockott
    4. Dewaldt Duvenage

    Whom of these scrummies do not rate better than Ricky… be honest… Ricky was included on reputation and bias and experience, that’s all, there is no getting past that little hurdle…. but the mistake was made 4 Tests back, now we have nobody who is a well oiled machine next to Morné Steyn, noboddy knows how any of those or how Ruan would have performed next to Morné, simply because they were given no opportunity to show the alternative option.

    Ricky was thrust into that position and stuck with, no matter what…. NOW WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT!

  12. Reply to Morné @ 12:37 pm:

    Most of our good wingers will come back from injury so again no panic.
    Ndunganex2? Nokwe?
    None of them are international
    class. Not even so sure about

  13. Reply to Ollie @ 1:24 pm: Gertjie van den Heever is not ready yet, was woeful on defence early this season (something he has improved on).

    Might be an option a year or 2 from now…

    But on right wing there are a few stars on the horizon…. Lwazi Mvovo, Lionel Mapoe…

    Barring the unfortunate injury I think Mapoe would have been ready by now… after his injury we will have to see how he shapes first….

  14. Reply to Morné @ 1:03 pm:

    I agree with you totally regarding RJ. RJ has been pretty solid, and apart from Francois Hougaard (arguably), there isn’t anybody who will offer anything more than RJ, and no Bryce, not even :Rule 9: Kokkerot. RJ is also coloured, so it will keep the politicians quiet, I’m happy with it.

    Pienaar is also proving to be ready for a dropping (hopefully until he get’s his head sorted out), his move to Ulster is coming in very handy imo, then we are rid of him for a while.

    Bismark will always be ahead of Chilliboy and everybody ells, just remember, the coach was prepared to move the captain out of position to accommodate Bismark, he’ll by no means be left out when he is fit, forget it. That leaves Gary and Lieb out totally, and they haven’t brought any more to the game than chilli has done anyway, so play him, and keep the politicians quiet, at least one less issue to deal with.

  15. Reply to grootblousmile @ 1:20 pm:

    But we can go through every position and ‘rate’ players and almost in every single one of them will we come up with a better ‘in-form’ player than the one currently selected at the moment.

    I mean Kanko has not had a great season, what is he doing there?

    Why isn’t Doppies even in our top 4 centers given his form in an absolutely shyte Super 14 team?

    Where is Lambie when he was one of the better 15’s in the competition?

    Joe Pietersen?

    And so we can go on.

    For me the fact is no-one has made an absolute case as a must select at either 2 or 9 on current form.

    Where others were given an opportunity to showcase their form in the Super 14 (Gary, Tiaan, Jano, Sarel, etc) Ricky and Chili were given a similar chance in the last 4 tests and taken all those performances into account – I cannot see what justifies them being dropped? If anything, I can only ask why certain selections were persisted with at union level (especially Duvenhage in the final where he was clearly over-awed by the occassion)?

    We can all list ‘current form players’ but can we honestly do a fair comparison if those we are comparing against did not play or were not selected?

    This again comes back to what union coaches believe their best players were, and I did not agree with all of those either, and what Peter believes his best options are.

    Who is right and why?

    We could easily ask why Ludeke did not give Chili more game time since this kid is a Bok afterall or why Allister persisted with a rookie when occassions at times (like the final) called for a big name or big occassion player.

    Union coaches are not automatically correct in their selections, and if Peter goes beyond what union coaches do the most fair way we can just those selections like Chili and Ricky will be to judge them playing under Peter and I believe their form was okay in the last 4 tests.

    This ‘but Gary or Tiaan is first choice at their unions’ offers no explanation or proof to me, simply because Peter does not coach them at the unions.

    Gary performs under Ludeke at the Bulls and the results showed.

    Chili performs under Peter at the Boks and the results again showed.

    How come unions are more right?

  16. Reply to Ollie @ 1:32 pm:

    In SA Rugby, in a relatively even contest between white and non white players, the darkie will always win, we must simply get used to it.

    Chilliboy has played some really good rugby, nobody can dispute it, the same with RJ. The risks were taken by selecting them, no doubt, but they produced when it mattered. If they produce well (which they did), get used to it, it is politically convenient to not look any further, the policians are happy, and the boks are still winning, we have a win win situation.

  17. Reply to Morné @ 1:34 pm: I’m not going to convince you Pismier, just like you are not going to convince me that the playing field was level in selection in the 1st place.

    We find ourselves in a scenario now that we HAVE TO back Snorrie’s selections.

    All I tried to do was show that some tricks were missed in the process from day one in this year’s Bokke.

    Luckily we don’t carry the mantle of coach, luckily we don’t have the Al Blacks next in 2 very tough encounters in NZ… what we do have however is that we as Bokke suporters have to watch this unfold from a distance and either lament or applaud the eventual results.

    Still makes me worry though, from a distance and an armchair!

  18. Reply to grootblousmile @ 1:43 pm:

    Well yes we always have to back any coaches selection because quite frankly we demand results as supporters.

    My point is, given the results of the last 4 tests some selections were justified.

    No preparation is ever going to be perfect in supporters eyes, all we can do is hope for the results and judge on that.

  19. Reply to Morné @ 1:51 pm: My question to you is, how do you see the Tests against the All Blacks unfold, how do you rate Bokke chances?

    Where do you perceive All Black weaknesses and where do you think we have the wood over them and vice versa?

    Do you think we’ll beat them again this year?

    I think they are busy plotting our demise and have an awesome squad, with players who know what the exact pecking order in the squad is.

  20. Reply to grootblousmile @ 2:06 pm:

    I think if anything Henry’s selection blunders will aid the Boks. He is seemingly intent on hanging onto ‘experienced players’ who have not performed well in any stage or competition for the last 12 months or longer – specifically at 9, 12 and 15 where he is almost certain to go for Cowan, Nonu and Muliaina.

    That said, the All Blacks no matter who they select will lift themselves hugely for the Eden Park tests, they are desperate to erase the embarrassment of 2009 of losing 3 on the trot to the Boks.

    A desperate team is a dangerous team and I do not think the Boks will have the same mental intensity going into the 3N.

    I expect at best a 50% return in NZ from the two tests.

    Selections will be interesting too?

    Do we play our best or do we still look to settle on combinations and back up combinations for the World Cup where they (back ups) will be thoroughly tested against the world’s best in their own backyard?

    I mean if they come through and record a win over there a year out from the World Cup it would be massive psychologically for the Boks.

    If we pick our best team (best imo of course) of:

    1. Guthro
    2. Smit
    3. BJ
    4. Bakkies
    5. Victor
    6. Schalk
    7. Louw
    8. Spies
    9. Januarie
    10. Morne
    11. Habs
    12. Jean
    13. Mossie
    14. Aplon
    15. Kirchner

    16. Chili
    17. Jannie
    18. Danie
    19. Andries
    20. Pottas
    21. Ruan
    22. De Jongh

    It will be titanic two tests where we will be the favourites.

    If we choose to be more unconventional then the call is 50/50 at best.

    At this stage I am not sure what I want to see from the Boks…

    I am leaning quite a lot towards PDV now putting his cock on the block and choose his ‘second stringers’ or favourites to either shut us up as to why they are in the team, or give himself a year to correct some selections.

  21. Reply to grootblousmile @ 2:06 pm:

    My 2c worth is that the AB weakness is inside their heads and their fans. get under their skin and they don’t like it.

    They are better continuity players than us when they get the ball moving in some space with the offload possible.

    Whereas our loosies are tending to be slightly faster than them and will keep them working hard for clean ball.

    They will give us a tough time in the scrums, we’ll take them on aerially at the lineouts.

    They’ll have the upperhand at countering the rucks for 50/50 possession.

    Their backs are stronger runners in the tackle, our backs are better at putting on the pressure.

    Both teams pretty strong at running good lines.

    IMO, it is going to be close and will depend a lot on the team that shows up mentally on the day. Get Carter rattled (a RJ speciality at times) and half the work is done.

    Give their backs ball and space and half their work is done.