Boks v Proteas … at rugby?


Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Forgive me my bemusement: it just seems that the Twenty20 game between the Proteas and Springboks is in some danger of being treated as an event a little more serious than it really should be.

It troubled me in the first place when the national cricket team’s selectors soberly announced before Christmas that they would favour “continuity” by naming a full-strength squad for Friday’s fixture (18:00) against the rugby specialists, marking the start of the three-day Festival of Cricket which replaces the more traditional New Year Test match at Newlands.

Surely a slightly better balance might have been struck in the competitiveness department, with respect, if the Proteas had thrown in four or five crowd-pleasing figures of, say, the early post-isolation era?

I’m thinking you could draw from names like Jonty Rhodes, Peter Kirsten, Daryll Cullinan, Brett Schultz, Mfuneko Ngam, Allan Donald, Paul Adams, Fanie de Villiers … etc.

A few golden oldies – perhaps not all of them in optimal physical condition these days, no bad “handicap” at all – wouldn’t dilute the fun appeal or have any detrimental effect on the gate, I am pretty sure.

Instead South Africa will field their T20 Full Monty, and we even saw newspaper back-page lead headlines on Thursday morning like “Kallis takes on the Boks” — as if the Proteas are having to bolster their arsenal for a genuinely weighty onslaught from the oval-ball gang.

Why, a touch of New Year madness has even engulfed that bastion of cricketing austerity, which, in its diary list of imminent international fixtures across the globe, duly records (thankfully in this order): “5th Test: Australia v England at Sydney”, “4th ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Nelson” and “South Africa v Springboks at Cape Town”.

So if you can’t beat such eccentricity, why not join it? More than a little sympathetic to the excessive lead-up hype the Boks’ essentially part-time cricket personnel will have to try to live up to, I have just begun to imagine (possibly affected by this city’s mini-heatwave), the boot being placed on the other foot.

What if it was decided that the Proteas would have to cobble together a rugby team to tackle the Boks at their own favoured, XV-strong pursuit … perhaps across the road a few days later at the other Newlands?

I make no apology for the exercise not being hugely scientific – uh, blame it on the time of year – and fully appreciate that I may open myself up to such retorts as “How could you pick so-and-so at hooker when he was a scrumhalf at school, idiot?”

But in a daft few moments I imagined a random bunch of our current national cricketers (either Test or one-day, or both) standing in a group and their physical proportions in early 2014 being strongest features, in many cases, for selection for my phantom “Proteas rugby XV”.

So here goes …

15 David Miller

He hits a ball a very long way, so I’m figuring if he has a kick to match that he could just be the Proteas’ counter to Frans Steyn’s 55m dropped goals and the like.

14 Dale Steyn

His nickname is the Phalaborwa Express … which seems a good start if he is to directly oppose one Bryan Habana.

13 Faf du Plessis

With two Affies products (always a good start) in my midfield, and both their fathers having played rugby for Northern Transvaal, this was the easiest combo to pick.

12 AB de Villiers

Yes, he was a Craven Week-quality flyhalf, but sorry AB, you are famously versatile enough to make the minor adjustment to inside centre …

11 Imran Tahir

The “Slaptjips” of my team, if you like. You simply wouldn’t know what to expect of him at left wing. A bit like his bowling.

10 Herschelle Gibbs

OK, this is the one “cheat” pick: he’s no longer in the Proteas’ frame, but if you’d ever had the pleasure of seeing him at flyhalf for Bishops … let’s just say there’s a danger he’d shade Morné Steyn for X-factor.

9 JP Duminy

Well, he was hardly going to play in the second row, was he?

8 Ryan McLaren

You’ve got to be tough to take on Duane Vermeulen in this slot, and McLaren at least hails from the rock-hard pitches of Kimberley.

7 Rory Kleinveldt

A bit of assuring ballast is required at blindside flank if you are to match the exploits of Willem “Bone Collector” Alberts.

6 Alviro Petersen

Never write this guy off: amazingly always delivers just when the axe seems to be drawing closer. Clearly has the mettle to be the Proteas’ fetcher.

5 Morné Morkel

Might pinch a few lineout balls off the fingertips of Flip van der Merwe?

4 Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Tricky gig to go nose to nose with Eben Etzebeth (OK, when fit again), but at least Lopsy offers a good icy stare. Handling skills possibly open to scrutiny.

3 Jacques Kallis

Didn’t sniff this particular slot in his Wynberg heyday, it’s true, but Jakes is a rather burlier customer at 38. Gnarly right-shoulder provider … the Proteas’ own Martin Castrogiovanni, if you like.

2 Vernon Philander

He comes from Ravensmead where there aren’t too many Shrinking Violets – important for the task of thwarting Bissie. Stocky build hints at scrummaging efficiency, too. (Oh yes, if he pulled a hammie Roelof van der Merwe would earn my recall to duty for this role.)

1 Graeme Smith (capt)

Barrelling loosehead prop and inspiring, John Smit-like skipper. Give Biff a pop-pass a metre out and he’ll cross the chalk, no problem.

Any improvements on that combo, readers? Let’s hear them …

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Better known as Bunny, Took over after Pissant went over to the "Dark Side"


  1. See Tickets for tonight’s game is almost sold out, gives me great pleasure to see this and how almost nobody supported the Indian test matches.

    I hope CSA have made a huge lost for trying to bullshit the SA public with their deal with Indian cricket.

  2. Ok I seriously have zero knowledge of cricket – like none.
    I want to commend Mr Houwing on this creative tangent though.
    Hopefully he will on that same inspiration in 2014 to pen articles as to how the distributive & mercurial talents of no other than Messerschmitt-Willie put SA in pole position for WC winners 2015.

    He can start with an exploration of the pros/cons of experimenting with the SunKing at……
    Courage Rob….Courage.

  3. Apparently the Sun King took a magnificent catch last night…

    Jonty Rhodes stuff… so he is multi talented…

    The idea of CSA choosing to stick to their normal side “for comntinuity” is probably the biggest laugh since the All Black said they don’t cheat…

  4. Protea’s going to face a far more sterner test against this resurgent Australian side who have now got that typical Aussie confidence/arrogance/petulance after the demolition…

    – No Kallis in the top/middle order
    – No fourth quick without Kallis
    – No spinner
    – No wicket-keeper
    – No De Villiers in the top/middle order

    – Aus have their entire top 3 openers firing, Johnson back to his best and quickest
    – Fourth quick in Watson
    – Whilst their openers are batting… the rest can bat down to 11

    Still astounds me Kallis did not finish of the season against Aus!

  5. What do you mean no wicket keeper Bryce? AB finished the year with the highest batting avg of all in 2013, as well as playing brilliantly well behind the stumps. Did you se the Kingsmead match? Some amasing catches. In the short form we have De Kock at keeper, a brilliant keerper/batsmen.

    The biggest factor we face is test cricket after Jacques. There is no replacement for him and will never be. Bowls at Zaheer Kahn’s bowling avg, bat with an avg of 56. That is bloody amasing over 18 years, add to that 200 catches in tests, and he is a phenomenon. Will be interesting to see where we go. Success for the Aussies against the poms have set this coming series up beautifully. Cant wait, 2 team on form facing off. Should be a cracker.

  6. Aussies that great or Poms that kak?

    Funny how people can change that opinion in three months. Aussie real test will be against the number 1 team in the world for the past few years with the best bowling attack as well.

    Poms got a mental f$%k by Aussie more than the game it self.

    But that is me can not wait for them to get here.

  7. I watched parts of the game – really delightful
    to see the fun and banter. Alberts getting rid
    of Kallis and Duminy in successive balls!
    Pity JdeV and Afkophoender could not play.

    Still sour about that 4-0 and 4-1 drubbings you got in
    the late sixties?
    Oh, I forget – that was before your time.

  8. It’s going to be a cracker. Competative like the last 2 tours of ours down under. I reckon the Aussies are a lot better than the Indians and Johnson on song is right up there with Steyn!

    Morkel has finally gotten rid of his no ball problem. To me our biggest concern is replacing Kallis. Do we play De Kock or another batsmen or do we play 4 seamers? Kallis was a real luxury. Who do we have as a seamer that can bat at test level? Mclaren? Kleinveldt? Not good enough IMO. Wiese is good with the bat but oversteps to much. We have a real question, Id go with playing an out and out bowler, maybe a Parnell or Tsotsobe and trust our top order to score the runs. But then the likes of Smith, Peterson, De Villiers and Du Plessis as well as Duminy needs to come to the party. You just cannot play test match cricket with only 3 seamers in SA. Neither in England and Aus. On the sub continent Id play an extra batsmen, trusting Duminy and either peterson or Tahir to do the spin job.

    Whatever we decide on, this is going to be a cracker of a series and I love nothing more than test cricket against the Aussies. They’d desperatly want to get one back after our last series down under.

  9. We need 4 seamers and a spinner, nothing less.
    Philander is coming on as a batsman, but will
    never be able to bat higher than no.8 in a test
    Please, no Parnell. He goes at 8 an over at best.
    Tsotsobe, but he can hardly hold a bat.

  10. @Aldo:

    Also looking forward to the Aus series and who will come into the test team for Kallis??
    I would go for:
    Du Plesies
    Top 6 need to score the runs with the 7,8,9 and 10 frustrating the opposition by scoring another 100+
    Tahir IMO is mentaly to fragile for test cricket – aussies will eat him for breakfast!