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The Bigger Picture

The book, Slaughterhouse-5 by the renowned author Kurt Vonnegut, may as well have had the Super 15, rather than World War II, as background.

Do yourself a favour and look at the official list of injuries published by Sanzar. While we often tend to only look at our sides, this list reveals why the Chiefs, for instance, are not nearly as dominant as they were in the two previous seasons.

With exactly 511 days before the World Cup in England kicks off, the SA brains trust is hopefully more focussed on the upcoming Rugby Championship which kicks off with a match between Australia and the All Blacks on 16 August in Sydney.

A number of key SA players are currently suffering from long-term injuries, and desperately need game time in the Super 15 to get into top form. Others, like Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen and Bismarck du Plessis need to be carefully managed to make sure they are sharp enough when the international season dawns.

The Sharks probably faces this biggest challenge in this regard. Jake White acknowledged that the likes of Bismarck and Steyn need a breather, but not against an improving Highlanders side in Durban. Winning at home remains a key element in reaching the semi-finals.

The other sides should really consider the bigger picture and rotate key players like Jean de Villiers, Adriaan Strauss and Willie le Roux. This will have the added benefit of increasing the pool of players with Super 15 experience for next year.

Unfortunately, at least two of the coaches of the also-ran sides are under huge pressure to perform or lose their jobs. This is where SARU needs to step in and draw the line. The interests of the national side should come before those of individuals.

 

Another Perspective

Jeff Wilson, one of the most prolific wings to play for the All Blacks, recently disagreed with Andrew Mehrtens on the importance of the South African sides in the Super 15. One of his arguments was that the All Blacks benefit far more from competing against the Boks than they do playing Australia, for instance. In fact, he stated that their number one world ranking is a direct result of playing regularly against South African sides, both in tests and in the Super 15.

The same can possibly be said of the Springboks – there is just another vibe when we play the All Blacks, and a victory against the Kiwis rates much higher than any other.

This has both an up- and a downside for Heyneke Meyer.

A recent report stated that there will soon be 49 Springboks playing overseas against the 48 playing locally.

Not playing at home did not deter Heyneke from selecting overseas-based players when required. The impact made by Bakkies Botha and Francois Louw are but two examples of how right this decision was.

Jake White recently indicated that Marcel Coetzee would do more than just stand his ground as fetcher in the national side. It is debatable though whether Meyer will break up the current incumbents, Louw, Alberts and Vermeulen, who proved themselves to be equal or better than their All Black counterparts. Coetzee was part of the Springbok setup anyway, so this should not be a problem, but rather an opportunity to motivate players.

At the outset of his tenure, Meyer indicated that he wanted a World Cup squad consisting of players with at least 30 to 35 tests behind them. The remaining Rugby Championships matches will allow him to achieve this, but only if the provincial coaches work with him to achieve this.

 

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