What a big difference a week in rugby makes! But like last week when the Boks played badly I find myself in a strange but familiar position this week where I call on fans to calm down a bit following the Boks walloping of the Fijians on Saturday.
From no-hopers who will struggle to make it through the pool stages the Boks suddenly find themselves as one of the top 3 contenders to lift the World Cup, and it only took six days for that to change!
Last week I felt we did not give the Welsh enough credit, and although it was not a good Bok performance by any means the win was vital if only for the character shown by the Boks against the best Welsh performance I witnessed in over a decade.
Yesterday the Boks could do no wrong it seems, and not actually having browsed through sites or papers that usually gives player ratings, I will be surprised if any Springbok player scored under 7 points for the match.
Like last week, I do not deny it was a very good Bok performance – or that certain players played out of their skins and deserve every accolade that comes their way, but please folks, it was only Fiji…
South Africa has played the Island teams enough over the years to know exactly what type of game they bring on match-day, and what we need to do to win them. The Boks always had the class and the depth to easily see off Fiji on Saturday, the question was always going to be by how much or how convincing. 49 points scored is great, but even Namibia put 25 past them…
I am ecstatic in the fact that they did manage to achieve victory in a very convincing manner, it will do as much for the psyche of this team as the narrow victory against Wales last week – but I cannot agree with the sudden calls for players selection in certain positions solely based on this one game.
One position seems to be a major talking point, and that is inside centre. Frans Steyn had a great game yesterday and personally settled some concerns I had as to proper depth we had for that position. If anything does have to happen to Jean de Villiers, we know we have a world class player to step up into the position.
I am however still unconvinced if Frans Steyn offers the Springboks more from centre or fullback? It is not a question if he plays, but where he plays and offers the Boks the most. One also has to consider the fact that if Frans is to replace Jean de Villiers as most believe he should, the Springboks will lose a world class player, but if Frans continues to play at fullback where he is the best the Boks currently have in that position, you will have two experienced, world class players in the team.
Many will counter that Lambie can easily do a job at fullback for us if Frans plays 12 as he showed yesterday, and not denying he is a fearless and talented young player, Lambie is still a rookie at test level who has played more at flyhalf than fullback at lower levels over the last 12 months.
The questions I keep asking myself are the following;
- Is Frans a better inside centre than Jean de Villiers?
- Is Frans a better inside centre than fullback?
- Where does Frans offer the Boks the most currently?
- Is Lambie a better fullback than Frans Steyn?
My opinion and answers on all these questions are borderline in some instances, but still a ‘No’. Frans Steyn on form is not only the best option we have at fullback, but arguably one of the most dangerous fullbacks at the tournament given his skills and deadly boot.
Frans might have shown some instances of brilliance at inside centre but it would take a brave man to say he is better than De Villiers in this position.
The security and options that Frans and Lambie brings to the Boks is a massive boost to the team knowing that if anything goes wrong or injuries happen, we have some world class back up’s and options.
The Francoise Hougaard situation is a similar case in point – would he offer the same impact he currently does if he starts a match, or are the Boks best served to use him in the last 30 or 40 minutes?
Given that there are injuries to players like Habana and De Villiers, I would personally like to see Frans Steyn start the next game at 12 again with Lambie at fullback to not only give them more game time ahead of the play-off’s, but to make them more familiar with the position itself and give them confidence.
Similarly, the next two play-off games should see Hougaard start to see if he does bring the same explosive impact from the starting whistle he currently does from the bench. Given the depth and talent, players like Matfield, Habana and De Villiers together with John Smit and other senior or important players can actually be given the week off to rest or fully recover from injuries giving the fringe players much needed game time.
My match-day 22 for the Namibian game will look like this:
- Beast or Gurthro (depending on game time played/needed)
- Bismarck du Plessis
- CJ van der Linde
- Bakkies Botha (40min max)
- Danie Rossouw
- Francois Louw
- Schalk Burger ©
- Willem Alberts
- Fourie du Preez
- Butch James
- Francois Hougaard
- Frans Steyn
- Juan de Jongh
- JP Pietersen
- Pat Lambie
- Chiliboy Ralepele
- Jannie du Plessis
- Johann Muller
- Heinrich Brussow
- Pierre Spies
- Morne Steyn
- Ruan Pienaar
- If Johann Muller is not fit Willem Alberts moves to the bench with Pierre Spies to start and Odwa Ndungane coming in changing the split from 5/2 to 4/3