Bok team - make your call
It's Bok season! And to add a little more excitement, SuperSport.com has some great games with prizes lined up, so read my thoughts on the Bok squad below, then go and sign up and prove you know your Bok rugby better than anyone else.
The first game revolves around the actual Bok team that will take to the field for each match. Get the starting XV spot on and you go into a weekly draw for a nice wad of cash and a personalised, signed Bok jersey.
The second game is on predicting the score for each match the Boks play, and again there will be weekly prizes and a grand prize too, so check out both and join up for a few extra thrills in what is going to be an incredible international season.
Click here for the games page
So, so here's my thoughts on what has turned out to be a fairly controversial squad selection.
The furore surrounding the player announcement just highlights once again the passion that our national rugby team evokes. Even not considering the blatantly one-eyed provincialism that has flared up through the comments, it has been interesting to note the other reasons for the distaste.
Just goes to show, there are many more aspirant Springbok coaches than I even realised, many more experts than could ever be squashed into a Saru board meeting, and many more opinions than I ever thought possible!
The Springbok coach has a difficult road to walk, and it just keeps on getting worse from his first selection right through to even the victories. Although they are very sweet, even those are marred by could’ve, would’ve and should’ve stories.
It is an incredibly difficult thing to do and I don’t envy him, but I have every faith that Heyneke Meyer will do a great job. He has the skill, knowledge and most importantly a nice mix of passion and good judgment, which will become evident the longer he stays in the role.
I took note of a lot of the banter around the squad selection, and thought I would chuck a few thoughts down quickly.
The team was chosen before the Bulls and Stormers game. It has to have been, because it requires high-level sign off, meetings with selectors and the governing bodies and notifications to be poised and ready. That immediately negates any arguments that the coach didn’t see the game. In fact, maybe he is resting key Stormers for a Super Rugby charge? Just a thought...
The players were picked for the series ahead, and it is clear that although his plan was to use some experience, with the possible inclusion of Victor and Fourie, and then ease his new and exciting youngsters into it through that series and for the Rugby Championship, it has had to change, and the changes are what has thrown people out.
Statistics are playing a bigger and bigger part in the game, which comes to light when looking at the loose-forward selections. Open-siders have had an open opportunity in the tackle area for a while, but it does not translate into every game.
Heinrich Brussow is a class player - fact - but look at how different refs interpret his efforts. Some blow him out of the game, others allow him to become so dominant that he can rule it, but look at the referees for the series and look at which of those refs have made HB ineffectual. Alain Rolland ring any bells?
I’m sure this line of thinking also held for Potgieter and Coetzee vs Minnie or any other flankers. Minnie has been hero and villain, rotating on a weekly basis according to ref in charge (he was also awesome last week against the Sharks, and turned a lot of ruck into maul).
Bryan Habana has played himself back into the team and that shows the character of the man, but it also shows that some things are best shuffled, and some left well alone. It’s how to choose in accordance with your game-plan that is the key to success in this game.
Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh also were on the receiving end of Heyneke's scissors, and that surprised a lot of people - even players. If you are wondering how stats could play a role there, look at the height and weight factors, along with ball-winning ability and skills. The stats that back that up are sitting on Rassie's hard drive!
So against an English team that kicks a lot of ball but also doesn’t turn well, in essence playing northern-hemisphere rugby, JP, Zane, Bjorn and Bryan aren’t just bigger but as fast and statistically more effective, so it become easy for the coach to pick.
The flip side is that when the game changes back to Super Rugby style and conditions, you will definitely see the method and therefore the personnel take a small reshuffle.
Lots to think about and we can discuss this way into the night, but I hope this has helped you understand how a coach has to play what's in front of him, and use the players he best sees fit to take on that task. And it's plain to see that at least he has the courage of his convictions.
So, go and make your own selections and predictions, and we'll hook up again soon.