In two weeks time, it will be the Tuesday before the first Test of the year, the first with Heyneke Meyer at the helm, and, we will all know that match 22 chosen be the new coach to take on the Poms in the first of three Tests …
The new coach has said two key things: He will only be announcing his first Bok side after the last round of Super Rugby matches before the break for the Tests, and that he will be treating the two big derbies that weekend – Lions vs Sharks, and Bulls vs Stormers, as final trials.
It’s a unique situation that is far from ideal for the new coach – hell it’s far from ideal for us bloody spectators … And it’s bordering on ludicrous for a seasoned national coach preparing for battle, let alone a complete novice …
Given the scenario, I might be tempted to play a Cheetah laden side in the first Test as they have a bye in the weekend prior to the Test, or perhaps a young side made of players that have not played a lot of Super Rugby. BUT – the new coach is hell bent on winning all three games, AND the Junior World Cup will be taking place in SA at the same time as the Tests, so a lot of the talented youngsters will be in that mix …
So given all of the above, it’s perhaps worth taking a stab at the 22 that could see themselves doing battle on the 9th of June. There are two ways of doing this – selecting a team I think the coach will pick, and selecting a team I would pick … I am going with the latter!
The Bok 22 I would pick for the 1st Test:
15 Joe Pietersen (Stormers) – He has been a revelation for the Stormers this year, and the nickname “Klein Percy” should be seen as a huge compliment given how reliable Percy Montgomery became for the Boks.
14 Gio Aplon (Stormers) And the size (and Stormer hater) freaks go mental! But it is not as if the Stormers have lacked in defence this year … And this man is dynamite on attack, and perhaps more importantly, counter attack. Bjorn Basson a real option as well.
13 Juan de Jongh (Stormers) – Feet and pace. And if you do not have raw SBW or Nonu power, that is what you want from a centre. Robert Ebersohn and Tim Whitehead knocking on the door. Lots of centre talent in SA!
12 Jean de Villiers (Stormers) – Deceptively quick, puts players into gaps, and perhaps most importantly, could marshall defence like Fourie used to do. Would be marshalling more than that though, as he would be my CAPTAIN.
11 Bryan Habana (Stormers) – Habana 2011 should have been dropped, but he wasn’t. Habana 2012 is closing in on what made him an automatic selection for any team in the world. Gutsy, quick, hard worker. Lwazi Mvovo loses out.
10 Morne Steyn (Bulls) – So incredibly reliable with the boot (yet worryingly, has had the odd game off this year), and key to the way Heyneke will play his rugby. Pat Lambie and Peter Grant would not let any Bok side down, but Steyn still the man for the game plan.
9 Francois Hougaard (Bulls) – Right up there with the best in the world. Has no peer in SA. Quick and physical, with a good pass. Cannot wait for him to cement his place in the side.
8 Pierre Spies (Bulls) – Best of an injury free bunch to be honest. But Meyer has to implement a game plan that sees this man running onto the ball at pace, and not roughing it in the tight-loose, because he fails badly at that!
7 Jean Deysel (Sharks) – Raise the alarm! With Juan Smith, Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger out the mix, and Willem Alberts seemingly struggling with injury and form, this is a problem position. Siya Kolisi, Marcel Coetzee and CJ Stander all contenders, but Deysel brings height and experience.
6 Heinrich Brüssow (Cheetahs) – The Boks need to play a fetcher, and this man is right up there with McCaw and Pocock, with Hooper set to join the fray. Game changer and the first loose forward I would select in this side.
5 Andries Bekker (Stormers) – I am pretty sure this man is carrying a back injury that is a vertebrae fusion away from making or breaking a career. But at his best, he is the number one lineout man in the country.
4 Eben Etzebeth (Stormers) – This selection might have raised a few eyebrows a few months ago, but now he would be one of my first selections. No brainer as the brawn to replace Bakkies. Incredible debut Super Rugby season.
3 Jannie du Plessis (Sharks) – It’s a problem position in SA, but Du Plessis has always held his own, and not let the side down. WP Nel is getting back to his best, while Werner Kruger would do a job, but Jannie still topping the pile.
2 Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) – Adriaan Strauss and Chiliboy Ralepelle have been very good, but I think last Saturday sealed the deal. Perhaps the best hooker in the world right now. Very physical, and like an extra loose forward round the park. Has to watch his discipline, and needs to be more consistent with his lineout throwing .
1 Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks) – He looked a little uncomfortable against WP Nel, but the Beast is a proven international who ads a massive amount as a ball carrier. Big part of the Sharks revival. Coenie Oosthuizen unlucky to lose out as has been very good this season.
Bench: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), 17 CJ van der Linde (Lions) – only prop in SA who can genuinely play both sides, 18 Willem Alberts (Sharks), 19 Siya Kolisi (Stormers), 20 Charl McLeod (Sharks), 21 Patrick Lambie (Sharks), 22 Robert Ebersohn (Cheetahs)
NB – The above team is the team I would pick, and not the team I think the coach will pick. I have also not selected any players playing overseas, as that is the policy I would adopt. BUT – Take a stab at picking the team you think the Heyneke Meyer will pick in the ENERGADE Bok Barometer, and stand a chance of winning a trip to see the Boks play in Argentina in 2013!
Super Rugby fixtures the week before the tests:
Fri 01 Jun 2012
09:35 Crusaders vs Highlanders
11:40 Rebels vs Brumbies
Sat 02 Jun 2012
09:35 Blues vs Chiefs
11:40 Waratahs vs Hurricanes
17:05 Lions vs Sharks
19:10 Bulls vs Stormers
Bok Tests vs England:
09 Jun – 17:00 SA vs England (Durban)
16 Jun – 17:00 SA vs England (JHB)
23 Jun – 17:00 SA vs England (PE)
Super Rugby fixtures the week after the tests:
Fri 29 Jun
09:35 Highlanders vs Chiefs
11:40 Rebels vs Reds
30 Jun 2012
09:35 Crusaders vs Hurricanes
11:40 Force vs Brumbies
17:05 Stormers vs Lions
19:10 Bulls vs Cheetahs