Bekker must get dirty …

Below Tank Lanning’s column that appeared on Sport24 today:

Tank Lanning
Heyneke Meyer has now named his 4th Springbok side, and while I don’t agree with every selection in the team to take on Argentina on Saturday, I can understand his reasoning for making them all.
And together with consistency, and a little loyalty, this is what players want from a coach – sound reasoning behind every decision. Talk in and around the camp is that he might be promising just a little too much to every player, which will get him into trouble at some stage given that 30 does not go into 22, but thus far, his decision making has been mostly sound and very consistent.
Of course, an overdose of consistency and loyalty is what got our previous coach into the pile of horse manure he eventually found himself in, and it will be interesting to see how Meyer handles the tough decisions that will definitely come his way.
In a way, he got out of jail with the injury to Pierre Spies. Human cyborg that he is, the Blue Bulls No. 8 had not been playing well, and the pressure was certainly on the coach to make a change. But with both Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger injured, he probably would have got away with giving Spies another game. Instead, he was given the opportunity to make a change – without dropping anyone – and to my mind, made a good call by bringing in Keegan Daniel, who has been outstanding for the Sharks this year.
The other option would have been to bring in either Siya Kolisi or Jacques Potgieter at 7, and move Alberts to 8. But given Alberts lack of success at the back of the scrum for the Sharks last year, and his phenomenal success at 7 for the Boks this year, it would have been silly to make even more tweaks to an already disrupted back row.
The other obvious concern has to be around the form of both Francois Hougaard and Morne Steyn, but with Peter Grant in Japan (and seemingly not in Meyer’s eyesight) and Johan Goosen injured, it probably makes sense to give Steyn another chance. An option would have been to play Pat Lambie at 10, but like me, I think the coach sees him as a fullback.
I would have been seriously tempted to give Ruan Pienaar a run at scrumhalf, with Hougaard either moving to the wing to replace JP Pietersen, or dropping to the bench, but he only joined the squad this week, so again, it seems to make sense to stick with Hougaard. Both halfbacks will need to up their games, though.
As said before, I do not think Zane Kirchner can take the step up to international level. It’s a consistent selection, though, and with Lambie only coming back from injury against the Chiefs in the Super Rugby final – and looking properly rusty for the Sharks, the bench is perhaps not the worst option right now, but he is the complete package and has to be the future of Springbok rugby. Will Meyer make the call though?
With Werner Kruger failing the test against the English, there remains proper concern around the backup to Jannie du Plessis at tighthead prop. Of the props in the squad, Pat Cilliers is the man who can play both sides best, so again – the selection makes sense. But against the Bajada, with three props making up the Argentina front row on Saturday, I would be very nervous indeed if Du Plessis had to go down early in the game.
Andries Bekker is back from injury so it makes sense to play him. But I would be having very strong words with the lanky Stormers lock about hitting rucks rather than hanging around in the backline. His obvious back injury issues are a concern, and one has to wonder if the backline is easier on the back than clearing out 120kg tight forwards at a ruck! To get that pack dominance and go forward the backline need to spark, the Boks will need all of Bekker, Alberts and Eben Etzebeth on the pick and go and taking pop passes round the fringes.
I would have had Kolisi and Juan de Jongh on the bench in place of Potgieter and JJ Engelbrecht on merit, but I would like to know how the quota ministers see those selections …
Argentina at Newlands should be relatively easy pickings for the Boks. But the Pumas away, and the All Blacks and Aussies make up the real deal for Meyer, and that is when the lid gets put on the pressure cooker.

One Comment

  1. With regards to Bekker – does a Leopard ever change its spots – Like Father like Son? Some have said he has to take over from Matfield – I wouldn’t say Matfield was ever Mr “smash them and crash them” – he often came off the field with Naas Botha like white pants.
    We are all aware of the politics that goes hand in hand with SA sport, but one has to feel for Lambie. This also must surely be M Steyns last chance to get things right.

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