Boks in waiting

Luke Watson proved another point to Jake White at the weekend, but he was not alone in players who should be playing for the Boks in November.

There is speculation that Watson will play for the Barbarians against the Springboks in the season’s finale at Twickenham. It is a game that will earn money for the South African Rugby Players Association and it is one that shows up the contradiction of South African rugby. There should not be an additional game played and ordinarily SARPA would be demanding such a fixture does not go ahead on the basis of player burnout. But the fact that they will benefit financially means they can see the value in one more weekend of rugby. It is a shocker.

Even more shocking is that Watson’s visit to Twickenham will probably be in the colours of the Barbarians. How any reasonably intelligent rugby supporter can excuse his probable omission on the basis of there being better players is laughable. Equally laughable has been the results of the poll on this website when asked who you’d pick for the Bok side, Pierre Spies or Juan Smith? So fickle is the South African support base that 70 percent picked Spies. Yet four weeks ago Smith was the one player in the Bok side considered capable of making a Tri Nations tournament XV. He had been South Africa’s best loose-forward all season. Spies comes in and plays two very good tests at home and Smith is forgotten.

Spies is a wonderful talent and you could accommodate both of them in a loose-trio, with Smith playing at No 8. But to leave a fit Smith out for Spies at this moment … I don’t think so. Smith, Spies and Watson for England. Now that has potential. AJ Venter is injured and won’t tour, so there is a need for a No 8 and Jacques Cronje on the last two northern hemisphere visits has not covered himself in glory. Joe van Niekerk is uncertain of touring because of injury, Schalk Burger is injured and Shaun Sowerby foolishly is unlikely to be considered. Kabamba Floors, as back-up to Watson in a specialist fetching role, should also be a contender, while Wikus van Heerden is an option as a back-up to the likes of Spies as a ball-carrying close side flanker. Hilton Lobberts has also progress well this year. I would not take Spies as an opensider to England, where the pace will be slower than on the highveldt and the need for a bloke who plays to the ball and on the ground is essential. Spies has to go as an out and out closed side option.

Watson has been consistently good in the Currie Cup and so has Gary Botha since his return from national duty. Of the props, Ollie le Roux and Jannie du Plessis have been the best, but Jake White won’t pick them. Le Roux, since being given the captaincy responsibility, has prospered. Francois van der Merwe has been the best of the Western Province locks and the WP pack has been decidedly weaker since Kobus van der Merwe picked Gerrie Britz and Andries Bekker ahead of Van der Merwe. The Bulls back-up locks have also enhanced their reputation and they’d be capable of performing up north.

There aren’t any other tight forwards who will challenge the Bok Tri Nations incumbents, while at hooker Schalk Brits’s injury has been unfortunate.

Of the loosies, WP’s Robbie Diack started the competition well, but has faded and outside of Watson Bok coach Jake White pretty much has the loose-forward department well covered.

Among the backs, Bolla Conradie is a possibility for the tour, but he is not ideally suited for those conditions. On form he’s a better bet than Ricky Januarie. Heini Adams has shown good quality, but he needs exposure at Super 14 level next season. He is not a test player yet.

Brad Barritt, wonderfully gifted, has not done enough on form to go because he has hardly played, but I’d select him on promise. It is frustrating that he has not made the breakthrough in this year’s competition. Brent Russell should go and play flyhalf in one of the tests. Again this is not a selection that has anything to do form, but it would be one that could result in better form for the Boks at Twickenham.

JP Pietersen must go to continue his tutorship as an international player, but Bevan Fortuin must be pushing hard for squad inclusion. His all-round consistency gives him a points advantage over Gio Aplon, while Francois Steyn is a more gifted fullback than flyhalf. The pick of the backs in the competition has been the young Lions flyer Ludik, who is a very special player. His introduction to the bigger stage should not be delayed.