Many international teams from the North are busy fine-tuning their teams for the upcoming RWC. Scotland and France pulled off narrow wins over Italy and England respectively, and Ireland and Wales will battle it out next week. These games are important as there isn’t much time left for coaches to decide on their best teams and their best combinations , but not too much can be read into results that only have a few points separating teams.
On the home front, I ran another half marathon in Atlantis on Saturday morning with my crew. There was nothing wrong with the route, which was pretty quick, and the weather was good, so all in all it was a great start to the weekend! Afterwards, I drove up to Porterville for their derby match against Piketberg. After a quick shower, I was ready to roll again. One just needs to go to these games to realise that rugby is still very popular in the platteland! There was much at stake for the boys and there was a big expectant crowd at the match. Beforehand, there was a lot of pomp and ceremony, some traditions observed and then a flyover by the “Silver Falcons” who performed some breathtaking acrobatics for the crowd.
The game was played in a tremendous spirit for what was at stake. Clearly, this derby meant a lot to each boy playing in this game, as was evidenced by the tears that flowed before and after the game. Porterville upset their more fancied opponents by 32-27 with both teams scoring five tries a piece. I really enjoyed the country atmosphere at the game and would like to thank all those who created the opportunity for me to be a part of it.
On the Currie Cup front, there were no real surprises (for me at least – I have already predicted a Lions vs Bulls Final after week 1. The Pumas gained a valuable win on the road in PE, as did Free State in Kimberley. The Lions only got the upper hand on the scoreboard late in the game against the resilient Sharks, and the Bulls showed how they can play attractive rugby for the 2nd week in a row (a departure from much of the past two seasons). There were a number of queries regarding some incidents from the last two games mentioned, but for a change I’m going to park those and diverge from the norm. RWC is fast approaching, and I thought I would indulge myself and play selector (the couch potato variety) for our Bok team. Selection is never perfect, and no one person can make everyone happy!
I’ve been watching form fairly closely and have come up with my team selections for the RWC. Generally, defence and experience are the core ingredients for success. It’s important to realise that we mustn’t take anything for granted in the pool stages. Scotland has this knack of upsetting the Boks when conditions are tough and marginal, and Samoa always present a brutal physical challenge. Team selection for those two games are vital. Then we would have to win three games against world-class opponents, all of whom would differ markedly. We can win, but on form we would have to lift ourselves. The seams between what we are doing well, and that 80-minute consistent effort need to be addressed and perfected on match day with a fair amount of thought put into game management. Selection will be crucial, not only the starting XV, but much better utilisation of the bench than I’ve seen lately! Players who can perform multiple roles will be very valuable to our cause. I’ve spoken at length about our game plan and the hard naked approach I think we need to adopt in order to win the competition. That should not be compromised no matter the game or the opposition.
My team for RWC 2015:
Willie le Roux (can play wing)
Habana, JP Pietersen (centre if needed). Mvovo
Frans Steyn (can play anywhere from 10-15) De Allende (wing) Kriel (fullback) De Villiers (although not first choice at this stage, but he may improve with game time)
Pollard and Lambie (fullback)
Pienaar (versatile … great bench option) Paige and Reinach (Du Preez hasn’t shown me anything lately, but I respect his proven ability, so I’m sure he’ll be selected)
Bissie, Strauss, Brits (for a team that relies so heavily on lineout, Scarra’s throwing in worries me, although his defence and carry aren’t too bad )
Jannie, Koch (would like him to go as he is a good investment for the future. I still rate Redelinghuys highly, but he seems to have fallen out of favour)
Matfield (capt – no one outside of number 9 has ever captained a World Cup winning team) Lood , Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph
Alberts (lock ) Schalk (8) Duane, Brussouw, Flo, Whiteley (although I would have had Kriel in long ago)
I would take six loosies as they will be doing the bulk of the graft . A 17/13 split is risky, but without risk and the odd, calculated gamble, no one would ever achieve anything. I thought Elton Jantjies improved in the Lions’ set-up, but is untested at the next level. The reality is that he is behind the other two and would probably only get limited game time. Kolisi is an option instead of Whiteley, and he is a grafter. Also it doesn’t really affect the balance as Schalk can play 8.
Whichever team they choose, I know whose corner I will be in!