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O Captain! My Captain!

Contrary to popular belief, this poem by Walt Whitman is not about the late Robin Williams in the Dead Poets Society, but about the death of Abraham Lincoln.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

How wonderful if this turned out to be true at the end of RWC 2015. Unfortunately, there are still some storms we need to weather before we even take to sea.

In 1999, Nick Mallet axed Gary Teichmann and replaced him with Bob Skinstad. IOL quoted Mallett’s views in 2013:

“I could have handled the Gary Teichmann incident better and should have waited a bit longer for him to recover from injury before making the decision to leave him out. I should have rested him for the last two games he played and waited until the end of August to announce the team once he was fit.

“With Bob I also should have waited another two months to have clarity on his (knee injury) situation. But the doctors said he was fit, although clearly the injury was worse than they had diagnosed, and it was to his credit that he emerged with the highest tackle count against England (in the quarterfinals).

We all know the outcome of the 2011 RWC where Peter de Villiers persisted with John Smit despite Bismarck du Plessis being the best number 2 in the world. At the Sharks, Smit played prop to leave Bismarck in the middle of the front row, prior to RWC. In reaction to a media comment by Peter De Villiers, John Plumtree at the time apparently responded: “Peter hasn’t called me yet, but as soon as he phones, I’ll put John in at hooker.”

It’s 2015, and another De Villiers features centre stage as we appear to stumble towards the tournament in the British Isles. Heyneke has his heart set on employing the huge influence of Jean de Villiers on his team mates to good effect but, as in 1999, dogging injuries makes his selection difficult to justify. Add to this Jean’s history of injuries when RWC time arrives, and the picture gets even gloomier.

Meyer’s second choice at captain, Victor Matfield, like John Smit in 2011, is not necessarily the number one choice in his position, based on the current form of Lood de Jager. The same applies to De Villiers who should, for a number of reasons, wear the number 12 jersey, but cannot compete against the current incumbent, Damian de Allende.

What would be the case if Meyer included De Villiers and Matfield in his coaching squad?

Firstly, it would allow him to take two extra players. Secondly, they would be on hand in the very likely case of injury to someone in the squad of 31, rather than having to summons someone from South Africa.

We have a number of senior players with experience, capable of leading the side. For sheer charisma, I would consider Schalk Burger, but Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen could handle the responsibility equally well. All three are certain of selection if not injured, unlike the top two candidates.

The perfect mixture of experience and youthful exuberance is vital for success.

I am just very grateful that I am not the current Springbok coach, given the added pressure from politicians, and insights from Formula 1 fanatics.

Meyer should perhaps follow Peter de Villiers’ example when he said:

“I’m going to pull a rat out of the hat.”

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