rugby-world-cup-2015-logoThere was a bit of Currie Cup rugby and a test match, which was of interest to me in particular, but probably the most important thing from a Bok perspective was the announcement of the team to represent SA at the RWC in England. There is always a story with any selection process, some lucky, others with hard luck stories. With our team’s selection, there is often the inference that there has been some sort of political meddling, or that not enough has been done to make the team truly representative of the demographics of the country (without compromising its winning potential). Then something new cropped up when a previously unheard of “political” group challenged the composition of the squad and at time of writing was attempting to bar the team from going to the RWC … Only in SA!

Anyway, the CC is following a predictable pathway, with the top two teams dominant, and I think it will stay that way all the way through to the Final. The Lions haven’t been that badly disrupted, so in effect are playing with many of their S15 rugby stars. I think the real story is the Bulls who seemed to have turned the corner and are trying to play a far more adventurous game with great results, even should they lose. Although they are playing against weaker opponents, they should continue. It will really set them up, give their youngsters confidence and catapult them to the top of the SA conference in Super Rugby if they can continue this trend!

The Sharks eked out an important away win over the Kings who tried really hard and with a few more touches could have extended their early lead. Not to be, and they will have to wait another week or so for their first win. The Bulls had a romp in Kimberley. Too big, too strong and more flash. The Lions beat the Pumas which must have upset Pro Legoate as he dished out 18 penalties against them and four yellows… Tough to win from there!

Some Sharks supporters, in particular, have questioned Jaco van Heerden’s award of a penalty try towards the end of the game in PE. Ronnie Cooke is heading for the line. He is about three meters short and is dangerously tackled by Sbu Sithole, an act that prevents the try. The ref asks the TMO whether the act would have prevented a probable score. The answer is yes. So, but for that chosen act by the Sharks’ player, a try would most probably have been scored, as the next defender was too far away to prevent the probable score. We are not interested in the certainty of, or a possible try. Only probable. The yellow card is correct by law. My only criticism is the subsequent explanation by Jaco, which was a little too verbose and mentioned a legal tackle by the offender. That’s not relevant, as he has chosen his act. So now he is out of the equation totally, and the only player we look at is the cross-covering defender who could have got there but probably not in time. I hope everyone understands this explanation, and the commentators were at pains to point out that SA won a test in Nelspruit when Walsh awarded a penalty try at the death against the transgressors. Only thing, it was Wales and not Scotland!

Back to our team. Everyone has an opinion. We can all express what we think. Well most of us. The reality is that Heyneke Meyer and his support staff know what they want. I’m sure these decisions were not made willy-nilly and they have a carefully plotted plan to win the RWC. By and large, I think they have got most of it right.. But there are question marks…

There are a few golden oldies in the team, some of whom haven’t played much rugby lately, making it difficult for the public to understand and agree with their selection. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just difficult to support the decision.

Personally, I think Kirchner is a luxury in a team that has quite a few who can cover 15.

No captain has ever won the RWC outside of 9, and so with history against you and a player who is clearly battling to regain match fitness, it is a calculated gamble of note.

I don’t mind the selection of Morne Steyn at 10 as he is a proven match winner with the right game and game plan. Jantjies is unlucky as he also offers something different, particularly with his ability to attack the gain line.. But he lacks experience in a crucial position.

I like Rudi Paige, and I think as backup, he is a very good rugby player. The reality is that Du Preez was always in Meyer’s plans, and he wasn’t going to ditch him now. I think Reinach is desperately unlucky as he provides a threat around the fringes with his gas.

I think Coenie’s all-round ability together with his defensive abilities as well as his superior carry probably got him the nod over others. But I am still a fan of Julian Redelinghuys and think he would have thrived in the UK. Kitshoff is also unlucky as he is very durable and would have been a great investment for the next RWC…

I think the lock choices are spot-on. Loosies… Well not too sure they have the right mix or the right philosophy. I would have taken six and sacrificed a back as we have a fair sprinkling of utility players who can cover a few positions very adequately.

Brussouw and Coetzee are glaring omissions. The conditions will favour defence and they are both excellent at their work. Clearly, the best we have. I think, strategically, we will be backing our defence and our ability to hold the line under pressure, but from my experience, you need to vary your defensive strategy. Vermeulen, Flo, Bissie, Coenie and even the likes of Habana are usually skilled and accurate, but not the best. I’m sure there are stats that would show their all-round ability is not as good as the potential all-round game the others offer, but they both bring another crucial ingredient that is hard to measure in a stat.

They are both warriors, have huge engines and have an infectious attitude that rubs off on those around them. We are going to miss them both.

Having said all of that, no one will ever completely agree with the selectors. I will be hoping they prove all their doubters wrong and bring back that trophy.

Wales beat Ireland in their last warm-up game (16-10), and they also proved that they are an exceptionally competent outfit. That group, with England and Australia included, is awesome! It was a big game for Paul O’Connel as it was his last game ever in front of his home crowd as an Irish International. He is a colossus in world rugby, a great leader of men, a rugged tough uncompromising international and a top bloke. He didn’t have the fairytale ending he was hoping for, but perhaps there is still a silver lining awaiting him and the Irish at the Rugby World Cup.

The All blacks chose their best team and there were a few notable absentees.. Corey Jane (never release a book while you are active) and Israel Dagg were unlucky. Three specialist locks are a risk! Sapoaga was stiffed, as was Piatau, whom I rate highly. The team has good experience and some X factor (Milner-Skudder, Williams, Naholo), but the dominant aspect is experience, leadership and workhorses throughout the team. They also have an ageing group, and perhaps there are those who will question some of their selections, but they have been winning with that group, consistently. They have an easy group and like the Boks will attempt play their top players into form.

That’s all for this week ..

My crew at the Saldhana 21km... Fresh!

My crew at the Saldhana 21km… Fresh!