The Springbok coach certainly took no chances when selecting his side for Saturday’s opening match against Ireland.
In the backline, the only possible surprise, if experience was the main criteria, is the retention of Cornal Hendricks ahead of JP Pietersen. Hendricks has certainly proved his value on the attack, but some critics question his defensive skills. If the last match against the All Blacks is used as a yardstick, then I have to disagree. Savea, or Little Lomu, if you like, demands more than one defender, just like Lomu the Whale did.
The line-out battle will be huge, with former Lions captain, Paul O’Connell, and Victor Matfield calling the shots for their respective sides. In Europe, the driving maul will play an important role in the Springbok attack, but O’Connell is an astute analyst of his opponents, and likely to have worked out a legal counter.
One has to hope that the short lay-off prior to the conditioning sessions in Stellenbosch will have an impact on the performance of the Beast who was a little lacklustre in the last few matches. Ditto for Jannie du Plessis, whose brother was his old self in the last test.
The replacements look set to make a big impact. Coenie Oosthuizen, in particular, must be raring to go, and his bullocking runs will no doubt sweep aside a Guinness defender or two.
Saturday will be the 34th test for the Springboks with Meyer at the helm. In one of his first interviews, he indicated that he wants a team consisting of players with at least 30 to 35 caps going to the World Cup. Looking at the team sheet, this will become a reality. Those who fall short of the target, like Jan Serfontein and Handré Pollard, have forced their way onto the international stage and should be ready to take on the world when the time comes.
In the wings are players like Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar who will hopefully be fully fit, come 19 September 2015.
One also hopes that the dispute between SA Rugby and Francois Steyn can be resolved soon. He is just too talented to be left out in the cold.
Solid Start for Proteas
The Proteas kicked off the second leg of their tour with a convincing win – their first in Australia since T20’s were played at international level. Both sides missed key personnel due to rotation and resting policies, but, never the less, contributed to an exciting game.
Special comment was made by the Australian skipper, Aaron Finch, of the death bowling of the Proteas which is as good as he has ever seen, and limiting the Aussies to a subpar score on a really decent pitch. Rilee Rossouw (78 runs), who was also man of the match, along with Quiny (Quinton de Kock – 46 runs) simply took the Australian attack apart but lost their wickets close to the end and left it to skipper JP Duminy and David Miller to see the game off with relative ease, with an over to spare.
Special mention must be made of the fielding of the Proteas, including some excellent catches. For once we outshone the Aussies in this department.
Pressure will be mounting on the Aussies after their disastrous tour against Pakistan. This loss is unlikely to see the Australian press in a forgiving mood. Momentum is a key element on tours, and the Proteas couldn’t have asked for a better start.