Springbok Tour Squad: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Bok coach Allister Coetzee has announced his 34-man squad for the November tour, and there are some interesting and not so interesting permutations.
Let’s have a gander at the group.
Obviously, the rock stars of the season so far are back in the formidable forms of Malcolm Marx, Wilco Louw, Captain Etzebeth and loose forward Siya Kolisi. A welcome return to the green and gold also awaits several stalwarts after returning from injury-layoffs. Among the forwards, burly tight-head Coenie Oosthuizen joins “Beast” Mtawarira to bolster the front row and lanky Sharks lock and Captain Ruan Botha replaces flanker Jean-Luc du Preez, who sustained a fractured ankle during last week’s thrilling Currie Cup Final. Du Preez’s barnstorming runs and physicality in defence will surely be missed, however Botha’s long overdue inclusion indicates a return to the no 7 jersey for livewire flanker-turned-lock-turned-flanker Pieter-Steph Du Toit, who brought similar qualities to the loose trio during South Africa’s 1-point defeat to New Zealand in Cape Town. Competition for the no 5 jumper will be nothing if not ruthless on this tour as Ruan Botha, Lood de Jager and Lions dynamo Franco Mostert are all world-class lineout prodigies.
Shiny new inclusions worth edging closer in your seat for include the Bulls’ electric fullback Warrick Gelant and yet another Shark, centre Lukhanyo Am, who can switch with conviction between 12 and 13. Both backs have a deft eye for the half-gap and Gelant has had a stellar year during both Super Rugby and the Currie Cup with his trademark elusive running and steadiness under the high ball. Also keep an eye out for new scrumhalf Louis Schreuder and a welcome return for Cheetahs captain Francois Venter to compete for a midfield berth.
THE BAD (OR QUESTIONABLE AT LEAST)
If there’s one thing that a Springbok team in a rebuilding phase looking to score maximum points in Europe doesn’t need, its players that are out-of-form. Uzair Cassiem and regular Bok benchwarmer Bongi Mbonambi are both industrious workhorses, however they fall short in genuinely impacting on a test match. Same goes for Cheetahs no 8 Oupa Mohoje, who has had flashes of brilliance in the Pro 14 but fails in fulfilling the basics of his positional role, becoming progressively anonymous as the game advances. Obvious, in-form replacements would be Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe (look out for the “Angry Warthog” in Saturday’s Baabaas/NZ clash) and Lions’ rising-star flanker Cyle Brink.
From the mysterious fathoms of coach Coetzee’s mind comes the inclusions, once more, of;
– Chillboy Ralepelle (who cannot merit a spot in his club’s match day 23, for three weeks running)
– Damian de Allende (had some great form. In 2014…)
– Raymond Rhule (has the defensive skillset of a pin at a bowling alley)
– Jesse Kriel (horribly out of his depth at 13. Some say fullback, some say wing. I say put him on the bench.)
– Trevor Nyakane (Zero scrum capabilities at tight head, so it seems he has now been included as a loose head and the pointless experiment continues. The mind boggles)
– Ruan Dreyer (penalty machine for the opposition come scrum time. The Boks will be behind by 12 before the initial kick-off against Ireland with this man in the no 3 jumper)
Notable exclusions: Thomas du Toit (Prop – Sharks), Rob du Preez (Flyhalf – Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi (Wing – Cheetahs), Kobus van Wyk (Wing – Sharks) Harold Vorster (Centre – Lions).
On a side note, the Cheetahs have a couple of new additions to their squad for the remainder of the Pro14. Keep an eye out for Tertius Kruger in the no 13 jersey. He steps like Christian Cullen and tackles like Bakkies Botha. Future Bok-star for sure.