Padova, where the Springboks play Italy over the weekend is apparently a beautiful city, boasting the largest square in Europe, the Prato della Valle. Hopefully, the South Africans will not approach the match as a walk-in-the-park contest.
Word from the camp is that the Boks learnt their lesson after failing to come down from the clouds when they beat the All Blacks, and fell to Ireland.
During the conditioning session in Stellenbosch a few weeks ago, Pieter de Villiers singled out the Italian pack as one of the biggest challenges facing the Springboks on this tour. The front row selection by Heyneke Meyer is therefore very interesting.
Trevor Nyakane faces the biggest challenge of all, having to pack down against one of the top front rows in world rugby, Martin Castrogiovanni. Castro, as he likes to call himself, was born in Argentina, so strong scrummaging is in his blood, and Nyakane will have his work cut out. Apparently, the Beast suffered from cramps last week, which impacted on his performance. I cannot see his replacement faring worse than the big man. What does concern me is having Gurthro Steenkamp on the bench. I hope he proves me wrong, but despite being only 33 years old, Steenkamp is past his sell-by date.
Coenie Oosthuizen will be determined to justify his selection as replacement for the injured Jannie du Plessis. The coach sang his praises highly, saying that he was very impressed with both his work rate and dedication during practice. Julian Redelinghuys is more likely to be a solid replacement, and I am very keen to see how he shapes up at this level.
I’m in two minds about Meyer retaining the halfbacks. Perhaps the message to Hougaard and Pollard is that there is no room for complacency. I suspect that they will play in the final match against Wales, which will be another pressure cooker test of their ability.
Goosen at fullback really excites me. His booming boot can really turn the opponents back every time they kick deep, and then he is also an inspirational runner. Is Goosen the new Frans Steyn? Saturday will be an indicator in this regard.
Green and Gold
The Proteas and Australia wore very similar outfits in yesterday’s match, but gold went the way of Australia as they took a 2-1 lead in the five match series through some brilliant batting. They also adapted to the changing conditions a lot better than the Saffers who failed to capitalise on their best start of the current series.
Bobby Londt, my cricketing colleague, views the bigger picture as follows:
Must win for Proteas
The first three ODI’s against Austalia has seen drastic results, with Aus wiping the Proteas in the first ODI, SA returning the favour in the second and yesterday’s result favouring Australia again in a comprehensive display.
Australia is leading 2-1 as we go the 4th ODI in Melbourne, which will coincidently, be the venue for the World Cup Final next year. This match is a must win for the Proteas to remain contenders for the series – a pressure game which will be good preparation for next year’s World Cup.
Points to ponder for Russel Domingo is the lack of consistency in the middle order from a batting perspective and Allan Donald will need to get his bowlers to better their death-over bowling. These are the two areas where we are extremely vulnerable at the moment.
We are likely see Robbie Petersen making his appearance for the first time in the series as Tahir is injured. This will bolster our batting order, and Robbie relishes the big occasion. I would also like to see Kyle Abbot in the side, but at whose expense? Morkel destroyed the Aussies in the second ODI and I quite like his new role, opening the bowling, as he has a much better strike rate against left handers than Dale Steyn. Philander might be the one to axe – but only for this game, as he put up a good performance in the first ODI.
The Middle order is suspect – only AB seems to fire here at will. Rillee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien might be competing for the same spot to make way for an extra bowler, Kyle Abbot. Peterson’s ability with the bat might allow Domingo to play the extra seamer.
Whatever the makeup of the side – tomorrow’s game is the ideal opportunity to simulate a pressure game, which is a must-win, in preparation for the World Cup next year.