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Damned if I do…

This may well be the mantra that Heyneke Meyer is chanting after selecting Oupa Mohoje in the starting line-up for the test against Australia at Newlands on Saturday.

Had he opted for the experience of Schalk Burger, the racist label would have been strung around his neck like a noose. Now that Mohoje got the nod, he is accused of bowing to quota pressures.

Oupa himself pointed out that the only reason he was not yet included was that his conditioning was not yet on the required level for international rugby, having still played Varsity Cup matches at the start of the season. One of Meyer’s strengths is his communication of his plans with players, and Oupa was quite happy with having to wait his turn until the coach decided that he was ready.

The Australian media, not unexpectedly, called it a “…shock selection ahead of 71-Test veteran Schalk Burger…” “…the black African has been pitchforked into a baptism of fire in Cape Town.”

These guys are beginning to sound more like the Fleet Street crowd by the day. They go over the top when their team does well, and crucify them when they fail. Like the British, the 12 – 12 draw against the All Blacks sounded more like a thumping of the world’s best team than a draw. When the All Blacks exposed them for what they really are a week later, the scalpels appeared faster than the All Black tries against them.

A look at the Springbok team sheet reveals a substantial number of names which were not even in the picture when Meyer took over, yet it gives me an extreme sense of confidence in their ability to really do well against Australia this weekend.

In response to accusations from the Bok camp about the suspect scrumming technique of the Wallabies, they criticised Victor Matfield’s manipulation of the match officials.

Forwards coach Andrew Blades is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying:

“Victor is very good at manipulating that situation and trying to create something in the back of people’s heads.”. Blades said Australia’s success in quelling their lineout drives in Perth boiled down to effective defensive tactics not to compete in the air and nullify the threat on the ground.

“It wasn’t like we were doing anything illegal so we’re happy with that as one of the tactics we take in,” he said. “But we also understand that the pressure we put on, there’ll probably be a penalty against us.”

What I am hearing is that they opted for the penalty against them, rather than a try.

Nigel Owens will no doubt be a lot stricter on dubious tactics, and a yellow card or two for continued transgressions should have a worse outcome than just a penalty or two.

Argentina/All Blacks

The re-shuffled All Blacks team against Argentina at La Plata on Sunday sees the return of Sam Whitelock and Jerome Kaino after recovering from their injuries. On the negative side, Dane Coles flew home for the birth of his first child. Rookie number 2 Nathan Harris is expected to make his test debut for the All Blacks after being on the replacements’ bench.

While most teams would quake at the thought of losing their first-choice flyhalf, the suspension of Aaron Cruden simply allows another game breaker in Beaudan Barrett to enter the fray and stake his claim in the absence of Dan Carter.

Few would bet on a win for Argentina, but a tough game there, followed by a long flight to South Africa, may just add to the chances of the Springboks beating them at Ellis Park the following Saturday, especially if we manage to service the Bok engine well in the match against Australia this weekend.

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