Handré Pollard’s inclusion as the Springbok pivot is undoubtedly the main talking point around the braai fire. Braam van Straaten reckons he has the potential to be the best ever fly half in a Springbok jersey. While I share his optimism, there are too many variables in rugby to make such a bold statement just yet.
Heyneke Meyer explained his decision as follows:
“We did sit down and discuss it with him, and I thought long and hard about this. I always believe that my ten must show the way – he is the general and he must take charge. I don’t think there is a better test match than this to put him in and let him play.
“I wouldn’t have put him in there if I didn’t think he was up to it. I just thought rather than put him on the bench and then bring him on, and you’re not sure, rather start with him and see what he can add to the team. I have a lot of confidence in him, and he adapted well at training. He has Jan (Serfontein) on his inside as well, who is 21 years old and Fourie is on his inside…”
It is difficult to fault the rest of the starting line-up, other than to ask why Adriaan Strauss was not selected to give Bismarck a break, and ditto Trevor Nyakane or Marcel van der Merwe for Jannie du Plessis.
I see that Jake White indicated that he is considering resting these two for the semi-finals, even if it means possibly not taking top honours in the Super 15. This is of course the way it should be – the Springboks should be first priority, or we could end up with the same situation we have in cricket where top players are rested after the IPL, rather than being fresh to represent their country.
The inclusion of Zane Kirchner on the bench came as a surprise. There are several players capable of standing in at fullback, including Mvovo, Boshoff and even Hougaard. Picking Sibusiso Sithole would have made much more sense, even if just from a political perspective, although he is good enough on merit. By not opting to do this now, he makes it even more difficult to do so when we take on the big guns in the Rugby Championship.
It will be a huge mistake to underestimate Scotland on Saturday. Unlike Wales, they had three warm-up matches, the last one being against the tough Argentinians. Wales was a completely different side after just one proper test, and the Scots will no doubt have studied that match to take pointers from it.
I expect it to be a close call, rather than a rout, with the Boks finding their feet in the second half.
The Waratahs and the Crusaders are poised to unseat the Sharks at the top of the log this weekend.
The ‘Tahs face the Brumbies at home, and despite being only 2 points ahead of the visitors on the log, certainly look to extend this lead, with a game in hand. A four point win will secure the top spot for the Waratahs, and with the rampant Israel Folau in their midst, a five-pointer is more than a reality. The Brumbies still have a bye, and will not get the four points they could bargain on last year, so for them it is a must-win game.
The Crusaders play the Hurricanes in Wellington in what should be an interesting game. The big question is whether they will start in their traditional slow manner like they do at the beginning of the season, or carry on where they left off before the break for the tests. With Kieran Read and Dan Carter returning, albeit on the bench, they are unlikely to miss Ritchie McCaw too much. Quite frankly, I am beginning to have my doubts whether McCaw will see the World Cup after watching him in the tests against England. The will may be there, but the flesh is weary.
The Canes, too, are under the cosh, having a bye in their remaining three matches, and will miss Conrad Smith, due to injury, as their main playmaker.
Met dié dat die vrou die naweek hoofsaaklik Wimbledon gaan kyk, is ek noodgedwonge aangewese om maar die rugby in die Akker te gaan beleef. Sien jou daar.