As Heyneke Meyer selects what Tank Lanning believes to be the best balanced Bok side of the year, it is a little sad that his president, Oregan Hoskins, chooses the same week to re-introduce the quota debate.
Beware of earthquakes as fat men round the world do a dance of joy. Coenie Oosthuizen has finally been picked at loosehead! And perhaps this is the primary reason for my liking the look of the Bok side named to take on the Scots this weekend, but it just strikes me as being well balanced.
Not only because we now have a proper tighthead on the bench, and a chance to give Marcel van der Merwe a deserved run in green, but also because it mixes experience with youth, and is a definite stab at growing squad depth.
Could Handre Pollard have been a better ambassador for South Africa while leading the Baby Boks to a mitochondria membrane from winning the JWC? He is the future of South African rugby, both as a player and as a leader, and I cannot wait to see him debut for the Boks on Saturday.
It is also a clever call to replace Francois Louw with a fellow fetcher in Marcel Coetzee. Replace like with like, so you can play the same game. Smart. And hopefully a key learning from last year’s game against the Scots in Nelspruit when the Boks played without a fetcher (Louw had been given leave to get married) and got eaten alive at the breakdown by a rampant Alasdair Strokosch.
It would be interesting to know who Heyneke Meyer would have selected at 6 if Willem Alberts had been fit, though. I suspect it would have been Schalk Burger, but perhaps I am being a tad harsh on the coach. As it stands, Burger, who to my mind is still not quite the physical beast he once was, gets a run at 7, and with Alberts being strangely off the boil in these last 3 games, perhaps the Boks should play a more linking type game, something that Burger definitely still has in his armoury.
It is a real pity that the likes of Trevor Nyakane, Lwazi Mvovo and Oupa Mohoje come into the side in the week that SARU president Oregan Hoskins sent a message to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer about having a greater representation of blacks in the national team.
Deserving of their selection, will they now have doubts given the dreaded quota debate? I hope not, and given that Meyer has said that the game this weekend was always going to be the game where he experimented a little more, one has to feel that he might have been hung out to dry a bit by his president!
Knowing that a bigger black representation was coming in any case, did Hoskins choose this week to go public with his “Personal request” to the national coach in order to score a few personal brownie points? From the outside it certainly looks that way, and if so, it is pretty untidy scenario.
A statement from Meyer prior to the series explaining his plans for the 4 games would have gone a long way to avoiding this week’s ugly political spat, but given the intensity of the public spotlight put on a Bok coach, it gets really messy when he starts needing to manage both upwards (to SARU) and downwards (to his players).
Just ask Nick Mallett and Jake White …
PS – The above first appeared as a column on Sport24