Jake White is toying with the idea of Bryan Habana as a centre. NO JAKE. Leave him on the wing.
The Rapport newspaper, following an interview with White, speculated that a Habana move infield was on the cards to give the Bok backline more creativity. Hopefully White was throwing a bit of bait and isn’t serious. If ever we needed reminding of just who should be playing at No 13 for the Springboks Jaque Fourie reinforced the view that he is as good as any outside centre in the game.
When White played Jean de Villiers and Fourie as his test midfield combination, they were comfortably the best option we have seen in Bok rugby for some time.
There seems a reluctance to play our best players in their best positions. And it is ridiculous. The Cats wasted Fourie on the wing for much of the Super 14 and the Stormers also sent De Villiers back to the wing to accommodate De Wet Barry at inside centre.
De Villiers is our most creative inside back and it is time he is entrusted unreservedly with this role. Outside of him Fourie provides the perfect foil. Shifting Habana infield would negate his impact. He needs space and his strength is his finishing and not his creativity. To borrow from soccer to emphasise the point, we don’t need to turn one of the best strikers into a decent midfielder.
If Habana is to be moved from the wing, then the position to give him a run at is fullback. He has a good kicking game, he understands defence and his pace will be maximised and not stifled if wearing No 15.
Marius Joubert showed he is trading on yesterday’s headlines against the Sharks, while Barry was honest without ever being influential in the final 10 minute flurry when the Stormers could not create anything to break down the Sharks defence.
Of the other midfielders on display Ronnie Cooke is an exciting prospect at No 13, but he is not better than what’s there at the moment (read Fourie) and Brad Barrit has something special about his play as an inside centre option.
But to shift Habana now would be dangerous and White would be making the same mistake John Hart made when he moved Christian Cullen from fullback to wing and then to centre for the 1999 World Cup. Cullen was not bad at centre, but he would have been so much better at fullback. The same applies to Habana. He would never disappoint playing at No 13, but he would not be the factor he is at No 11.
Keep your best finisher on the wing Jake.