The announcement of the squad was delayed to this coming Saturday as a result of the Sharks making the semi-finals.
One suspects that the ultimate list of 30 players will be a mixed grill of experience and promising youngsters, like the team who played against Scotland a few weeks ago.
While a key player like Fourie du Preez will definitely not be in the mix, some other stalwarts like Eben Etzebeth and Springbok captain, Jean De Villiers, may be there, while Pat Lambie is sure to be included. It will also be interesting to see if the coach brings back Juan Smith who is available again. His all-round skills and experience makes him an ideal utility player, and one only has to remember his impact on the Cheetahs in days of yore to know just what a difference he makes.
Amongst the youngsters, Handré Pollard’s place is booked, but will one sterling performance be enough for the inclusion of 19-year old Thomas (die Tenk) du Toit?
There is of course also the ever present requirement of bringing players of colour into the fold. We already saw a few indigenous black players in the incoming tests group, and this may be extended for the Championship series.
To the best of my knowledge, it is only in South Africa where white is not regarded as a colour – I wish they could come up with a better term.
The first test against Argentina on the 16th is a must-win affair, but one where the experiment against Scotland may well be repeated.
A copy of Jonathan Kaplan’s, “Call it like it is”, is up for grabs for the reader who comes closest to predicting the squad to be announced on Saturday. This competition is open to all except Heyneke Meyer and Moonstone personnel. Entries received after 12.00 on Friday will not be considered.
Jammer Heyneke – ek weet hoe kompeterend jy is, maar reëls is reëls.
We have no presence at this grand spectacle other than one Waratah and the referee, so Saturday’s big match will be a little less tense for most of us.
The Waratahs lost their last 11 encounters against the Crusaders, last tasting victory 10 years ago. Waratahs coach, Michael Cheika, focused on positive thoughts this year, and the team will be unlikely to spend too much time rehashing their poor record against the Crusaders.
The Crusaders’ forwards, who provided the platform for their semi-final victory over the Sharks with a dominant performance, are targeting this area for Saturday’s final against the home side.
The Waratahs’ pack, like that of the Sharks, is extremely big – Lock Will Skelton weighs 137kg. The Crusaders plan to employ aggression and firepower to counter this, although former Bulls lock, Jacques Potgieter, who has become a cult figure in Sydney, will be not be deterred by physicality.
Apart from targeting the Waratahs’ set-piece, the Crusaders will need to maintain their performance on the defence against the likes of Folau. Then there is the breakdown areas, on which Wyatt Crockett commented: “Michael Hooper is pretty good in that area, over the ball, so we have to make sure we’re a lot more accurate at the breakdown.”
“We just have to be disciplined when we do it and not give away penalties. We’ve been working hard this week and that’s certainly an area where we want to have a crack at them.”
The Crusaders were often penalised for holding on against the Sharks. Craig Joubert should be a concern for the Crusaders if they revert to their jersey-pulling and off-the-ball antics. Joubert was quite strict on that this year, and McCaw and company need to consider this if they want to retain their winning streak against the Waratahs.
Let’s hope our two representatives in the final make the headlines for the right reasons.
Au Revoir Jacques
I just learnt that Kallis decided to retire from all international events. What a sad day for world cricket in general, and South Africa, in particular. More about this on Monday.