They say that, in golf, every shot pleases someone – either the player, or his opponent.
The bad news about the incumbent Bok captain probably solves a quandary for the coach while at the same time creating another.
It appears that Frans Steyn is the obvious replacement for Jean de Villiers at centre, but who to select in the number 13 jersey? JJ Engelbrecht is the current incumbent, but Juan de Jongh is staking a strong claim for the position he was forced to relinquish due to injury, as does Damian de Allende whose consistent performance this season earned him an invitation to the training camp. Experience will count against the Stormers all-rounder at this stage, but he will certainly feature in the future.
With Heyneke preferring Willie le Roux at fullback, the rest of the backline is fairly predictable, and the same can be said for the pack. The selection of the reserve bench will give one a good idea of Meyer’s thoughts on the lead up to the World Cup.
One little spanner in the works may be the play of Juan Smith this weekend. In his heyday, he was the one name on the team sheet that was inked in before most others were pencilled in. His skills in all facets of the game, including his leadership skills, make him an ideal choice as part of the national set-up.
Victor Matfield appears to be the frontrunner in terms of taking over the Bok captaincy in the wake of Jean’s withdrawal. It is possible that Bismarck will be given the opportunity to learn from Matfield in the run-up to the World Cup. Du Plessis’s leadership of the Sharks is certainly a factor in their success, and something to build on in the international arena.
Statistics can confirm some beliefs, and defy others.
A look at the data after round 15 of Super Rugby shows that the SA side who scored the most tries are the Cheetahs (32), followed by the Stormers (28). The fact that they are way down on the log just proves that this in not all that matters. The Hurricanes (42) are the main try scorers, followed by the Waratahs (37). Log leaders, the Sharks, have only scored 23 tries to take the third last spot on this list.
As far as lineouts are concerned, the Bulls take top honours with a success rate of 91.1%, followed very closely by the Sharks (90.2%). Small wonder, as the two top individuals in the lineout stakes are Victor Matfield (61) and Stephan Lewies (59). This possibly explains why they are the top two SA teams.
The low ranking of the Sharks, as far as scrum success goes, should be a concern for both Jake White and Heyneke Meyer. Despite an All Bok front row, they are third from last in this vital aspect of the game. Then again, the two leading teams in this department, the Stormers (92%) and the Lions (90%) are no threat to them, even in the SA conference, although the Sharks still have to play both of them on their way to, hopefully, a home semi- and final.
As far as points scorers are concerned, Marnitz Boshoff is third on the list, and Jacques-Louis Potgieter seventh. There is no SA player on the list of top try scorers.
Teach your Children
Despite the inclement weather, the schools rugby match between Boishaai and Grey on Saturday proved to be yet another dull showcase of what rugby should not be. My concern is that, if we produce this kind of mind-set at schools level, what hope in hell do we have of producing the Willie le Rouxs of the future?
Compare this to feast of rugby dished up by the Crusaders and the Highlanders, and you have to agree – this is one problem we cannot blame on the rules or the referees.