New to the All Things Jabu team is Sean Wilson (@SimplySean_) gives us his views on the Springbok team.
Looking at the Rugby Championship, here’s a suggested matchday 23 selection for the South Africa’s opening game against Argentina.
15 Willie le Roux
It’s becoming hard to remember a time when Willie le Roux wasn’t your favourite player. Ace playmaker and sees backline holes to enter better from fullback than wing. Showed great high ball skills against Wales too.
14 Cornal Hendricks
His Sevens skills provide nice touches. Had a fine June which earned him the right to keep his place for now, although Lwazi Mvovo is banging on that door.
13 Damian de Allende
It’s a squad without specialist outside centres. If you’re going to stick with Jean de Villiers at 12, the battle for 13 is left between Damian de Allende and Jan Serfontein. Serfontein seems to be groomed as quite a typecast South African 12, and de Allende has displayed more than enough skills to suggest that he could do well at 13, but inevitably there’s unavoidable guesswork.
12 Jean de Villiers (captain)
Should be fit by then, and could do with him leading again. Judging by the way all other Springbok captain contenders have been speaking to refs, de Villiers almost earns selection based on his referee communication alone.
11 Bryan Habana
He’s been there, done that. He is there, doing it.
10 Morne Steyn
The team needs an ace goal kicker. While he is definitely partial to the up and under, some subtleties in his general play can go underappreciated. Definitely in the plans until next year’s World Cup, at least.
9 Cobus Reinach
Fourie du Preez’s injury is a huge blow for two reasons. Firstly, he’s leagues ahead of any other South African scrumhalf. Secondly, all other scrumhalves that Meyer has selected for the Springboks have flattered to deceive. Time to give the form South African scrumhalf in the squad a chance. He might be a move away from certain areas that Meyer treats as non-negotiable for a scrumhalf, but he also offers game-breaking qualities.
8 Duane Vermeulen
He tackles, he’s good on the ground, he’s dependable for go-forward ball. He’s built up such senior player type respect despite not even reaching 20 test caps yet.
7 Willem Alberts
South Africa always has loads of crashing blindside flanks, and in the last two years, no-one has been more crashing than Willem Alberts.
6 Francois Louw
You just mustn’t do test rugby without fetcher openside flanks, and Francois Louw has been outstanding at that during Meyer’s tenure. He rounds off a loose trio combination that has grown and grown.
5 Lood de Jager
When Victor Matfield isn’t around, the rugby world is showing a move away from the specialist beanpole number 5s and more towards treating the locks as a chance to have two enforcers on the field. De Jager has shown that the international arena is one he can flourish him, so let him play the weakest fixture in the Rugby Championship schedule.
4 Eben Etzebeth
Should be fit, will definitely be raring to go. He might not have played yet this year, but you try and tell him he’s not starting.
3 Jannie du Plessis
Arguably the most needed player for Meyer in the last 2 years and while there has been some encouraging young tightheads showing promise, this situation has hardly changed.
2 Bismarck du Plessis
Best hooker in the world. Simple.
1 Tendai Mtawarira
The Beast’s injury didn’t sound great, but if he’s in the squad, he must be treated as if he’s fit. So much great investment has been given to developing the Sharks front row as the Springbok combination. Hopefully it keeps growing for the World Cup.
16 Adriaan Strauss
17 Gurthro Steenkamp
18 Frans Malherbe
19 Bakkies Botha
20 Marcell Coetzee
21 Ruan Pienaar
22 Patrick Lambie
23 Jan Serfontein
Gurthro Steenkamp enjoyed a great game starting against Wales in June which answered some critics and showed that he can still offer Springbok rugby a lot. Frans Malherbe is back to fitness, so he can build on his Springbok tighthead career that started quite promisingly in Europe last November.
Bakkies Botha acts as an experience safety net to fall back on, and while it’s tempting to thrust Juan Smith into an immediate romantic return, Marcell Coetzee gets an extra tick for his ability to step into the fetching role if required.
As for the backs, scrumhalf and flyhalf cover is a must. Pienaar is there to make sure there is scrumhalf experience somewhere in the matchday 23 and his kicking game should not be underestimated with a World Cup in England in mind.
Lambie acts as both flyhalf and fullback cover, but there’s also the option of having Handre Pollard as flyhalf cover and picking Lwazi Mvovo as cover for wing and fullback. That does leave the scenario where a centre could get injured an Pollard would have to step in at 12, which looks far from ideal.
With de Allende starting at centre and able to cover wing, that calls for the last player on the bench to cover centre, so Serfontein it is.