Springboks looking for new ideas

It has recently been announced that the current Springbok captain, Adriaan Strauss, is set to retire from international rugby at the end of the season. The 30-year-old has decided that what has been called one of the worst seasons in Springbok history will be his last in a Green & Gold jersey. This is actually sad…

As I have made my views on Strauss’ inclusion in the match day XV very clear, it may come as a surprise to hear that I am saddened by the news of the blonde Bulls captain’s international retirement. I can only imagine that it is not age but rather form and public pressure that have influenced his decision to retire. The South African rugby public, myself included, have openly criticised Strauss’ current form and leadership ability, and seriously questioned his recent appointment as Springbok captain when he clearly is not the best performing hooker available for South Africa. The problem comes in when you blame Strauss for his appointment. Strauss has done the best that he could do under the circumstances, but the fact of the matter is that he was never the right person to take on such a responsibility with such a young group. Strauss is a good leader, however he is not the best leader in the current squad, and I feel that his attempts to lead this young group of Boks, as well as keep his own personal form up to standard, has resulted in poor performances in both categories.

I believe that coach Allister Coetzee is to blame for the poor leadership shown in this year’s Rugby Championship, and he is also to blame for Strauss’ early retirement from international rugby. I would like to think that Strauss has realised that he is not deserving of the Springbok No. 2 jersey and has realised that the current coach will not drop his captain, therefore he is nobly bowing out of selection eligibility. That is the only reason that I can think of that a 30-year-old would be retiring from international rugby.

On the plus side of this rather disappointing retirement, it opens up an opportunity for Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx to battle for the starting hooker position. I firmly believe that Marx will soon take over the No. 2 despite being behind Mbonambi in the current pecking order. It will also be interesting to see who takes over the captaincy from Strauss. I believe that Warren Whiteley is the only real candidate. Duane Vermeulen, Brian Habana and Francois Louw are not properly eligible as they are all currently overseas based players, which is not desirable in a captain of the Springboks. I also feel that Whiteley is the only one with sufficient leadership abilities in order to lead the Springboks through arguably their worst period in history.

What is difficult is that Whiteley is not necessarily the best No. 8 in the country, or rather, he does not fit the usual old of what is expected from a South African eighth man. The traditional South African eighth man was an enforcer; powerfully built, breakdown securing and very intimidating player. Vermeulen very much fits those requirements, however, he is currently still struggling with injury, and was suffering with form for several months before this injury. Whiteley is a much more athletic, speedy and agile No. 8, which would suit a more attacking, open gameplan. I would rather start Whiteley at No. 8, and consider Vermeulen at No. 7 alongside Kriel/Louw/Notshe at No. 6.

But now on to more pressing matters, the current disarray of the Bok squad, and their apparent mistrust in the current combinations…

It has been reported that the current centre pairings are about to be shuffled, which would mean that Jesse Kriel would most likely gain a starting birth for Saturday’s test clash against a severely suffering Australian side. This will be interesting, as I would prefer to see Kriel at fullback with Goosen moving to inside centre, and De Allende moving to right wing. This would result in Juan de Jongh moving back into the match day 23 on the bench.

I would also like to see Elton Jantjies be given one last chance to prove himself, as he is still trying to come to grips with Coetzee’s ever changing and somewhat confused gameplan. It was obvious last week that Morne Steyn also struggled to find out exactly hat to do on attack, and both flyhalves’ kicking suffered, both out of hand and off the tee. However, Jantjies is still yet to be declared fit for Saturday’s clash, and as such, I will continue as if Jantjies is unavailable. It will then be interesting to see how the other new combination of Faf de Klerk and Morne Steyn will work as they are not equally minded. De Klerk is a very attacking minded scrum half, whereas Steyn is a very territorial flyhalf. These combinations, as well as discovering exactly what gameplan is being adopted by the Springboks, will be of vital importance this weekend when the Springboks under Coetzee will face their biggest challenge yet.

With that being said, I must mention a slightly less important selection mistake currently being made, however it is still important. That mistake is the continued reliance on Francois Louw to don the No. 6 jersey. Jaco Kriel has made a significant impact in every match in which he has been deployed from the bench. It is time for Coetzee to recognise that his best loose froward on current form is Kriel, and he should reward him with a starting role. The Springboks can only benefit from Kriel’s game-breaking ability and superior fitness and speed being utilised from kick-off. It is, however, a good sign that Kriel has been given more game time in the past two weeks, and I hope that translates into a starting role for him in the near future.

The following is the team that I would select for Saturday’s clash (should Jantjies not be declared fit to play.):

  1. Tendai Mtawarira
  2. Adriaan Strauss (Captain)
  3. Vincent Koch
  4. Eben Etzebeth
  5. Pieter-Steph du Toit
  6. Jaco Kriel
  7. Teboho “Oupa” Mahoje
  8. Warren Whiteley
  9. Faf de Klerk
  10. Morne Steyn
  11. Brian Habana
  12. Johan Goosen
  13. Lionel Mapoe
  14. Damian de Allende
  15. Jesse Kriel
  16. Malcolm Marx/Bongi Mbonambi
  17. Steven Kitshoff
  18. Lourens Adriaanse
  19. Franco Mostert
  20. Francois Louw/Sikhombuze Notshe
  21. Francois Hougaard/Rudy Paige
  22. Juan de Jongh
  23. Lwazi Mvovo

Although I feel that this would be our strongest possible team (Not just from the current extended squad):

  1. Steven Kitshoff
  2. Malcolm Marx
  3. Vincent Koch
  4. Eben Etzebeth
  5. Pieter-Steph du Toit
  6. Jaco Kriel
  7. Sikhombuze Notshe
  8. Warren Whiteley (Captain)
  9. Faf de Klerk
  10. Johan Goosen
  11. Brian Habana/Sergeal Pietersen
  12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg
  13. Lionel Mapoe
  14. Travis Ismaiel
  15. Jesse Kriel
  16. Bongi Mbonambi
  17. Tendai Mtawarira
  18. Lourens Adriaanse
  19. Franco Mostert
  20. Teboho Mahoje
  21. Francois Hougaard
  22. Morne Steyn
  23. Damian de Allende

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2 thoughts on “Springboks looking for new ideas

    1. I would not say that Allister Coetzee should not be coach, but I would say that he needs to be more specific in deciding a gameplan going forward. With the current style of play, the Springboks look like they are between two gamelans, and it is not clear to all the players what their roles in the new plan is. I would, however, suggest that Johan Ackermann be looked at as well as Nick Mallett be looked at to succeed Coetzee if he should not make the 2019 World Cup, but I also know that Ackermann needs more first class experience as a coach, and Mallett will not coach again as long as politics are involved.


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