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!