Asked to name the Bok 28 I would have taken on tour, here’s my squad and the motivation of who goes and who stays. There are 18 changes when compared with Jake White’s 28.
My split is 13 backs and 15 forwards, loads of experience and a definite slant towards Currie Cup form, with 10 new caps included.
Fullbacks - JP Pietersen and Brent Russell
Monty stays to rest and Bevan Fortuin misses out because only two fullbacks get selected. Gio Aplon needs a Super 14 before he needs a test cap. Pietersen’s international tuition must be furthered. He carried tackle bags for five weeks before getting a test cap and if he is to go to the World Cup then give him additional exposure on tour. Russell just has to be there to provide the team with that X factor.
Wings - Breyton Paulse, Bryan Habana and Louis Ludik
Akona Ndungane was average in the Tri Nations. The selectors won’t learn anything new from him on tour. Paulse provides huge experience and if you start with Pietersen the experience of Paulse to complement the back three trio would be invaluable. Paulse isn’t overplayed, having started one test match in the last three months. He was the star against New Zealand and Australia when coming on as a replacement. Habana is not in need of rest, but international game time, while Ludik is the most talented of some very good wing prospects in the Currie Cup.
Centres – Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Brad Barritt and Jaco Pretorius
De Villiers and Fourie are the best combination. I’d play them in the first test against England as a midfield and then play Barritt and Pretorius in the second test with De Villiers and Fourie to provide back-up as a midfield combination or a wing combination. This would tell us how England copes with a totally different attack. The tour is about experimentation within reason. Wynand Olivier stays at home because of health reasons. He has just suffered a bad concussion and he has struggled with injury in the Currie Cup since returning from international duty.
Flyhalves - Andre Pretorius and Meyer Bosman
This is such a wasted opportunity to have exposed Bosman to more test rugby up north and seen how much benefit was gained from taking him on tour a year ago. Butch James has struggled with injury and is not in form. He was disappointing against the Cheetahs in the semi-final. James, fully fit, is always an asset. James, half crocked, is a liability.
Scrumhalves – Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar
Du Preez is the first choice scrumhalf and his kicking game is crucial up north. Pienaar is the game breaker to introduce off the bench in one test and to start in another, simply to see how he handles the situation. I’d have rested Ricky Januarie and Bolla Conradie is more suited to southern hemisphere conditions.
Loose-forwards - Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Luke Watson, Kabamba Floors and Wikus van Heerden
This selection provides an opportunity to see two different loose-trios measure up to England, knowing that Joe van Niekerk and Schalk Burger are at home in rehab. It also tests the fetcher theory. Jake White does not believe in the fetcher theory, yet his teams have won just one test in 11 away from home against the leading countries. Try something else and see if you get a better result. I’d play Watson in one of the tests and Floors in another. If you want to be daring you could even play them both in one test with a big No 8 to see the value of two fetchers. What’s there to lose?
Locks - Barend Pieterse, Danie Rossouw, Victor Matfield, Ross Skeate
Pieterse was the form lock of the Currie Cup, Danie Rossouw gives you utility value and is a better option than Johann Muller and Ross Skeate is tasked with being Victor Matfield’s understudy. I’d take Matfield for his leadership and as a tutor to Skeate. What new are we going to learn from Johan Ackermann and Albert van den Berg?
Tighthead props - Cobus Visagie and Jannie du Plessis
BJ Botha injured his neck earlier in the year and I’d have put him on a good strength programme to prime him for the 2007 international season, while CJ van der Linde’s season has been characterised by injuries. He should be in rehab and not expected to play in three tests. Jannie du Plessis is a form player and this is an opportunity to see if he is capable back-up to those who rate higher in the eyes of the selectors. Visagie’s selection, for me, is a no brainer. He is playing against the English loose-heads every weekend and dominating them. He can also provide good mentorship to Du Plessis.
Hookers - Gary Botha and Bismarck du Plessis
The two form hookers of the Currie Cup. John Smit is desperate for time off and Chiliboy Ralepelle’s progression should be through the Currie Cup and Super 14. It is incredible that he goes on tour as South Africa’s number two when he is deemed not ready to play senior rugby by his own province.
Loosehead props - Ollie le Roux and Wium du Preez
Le Roux provides experience on a trip like this and because I have gone for combinations that have played together for the past three months and done so successfully. Rassie Erasmus’s rotation of the props is also a necessary tactic against England. These two have been the form loosehead props in the Currie Cup. Le Roux also provides cover as a third hooker.
Boks to play England in first test
12 De Villiers
5 Matfield (capt)
2 Du Plessis
1 Du Preez
17 Le Roux
20 Du Preez
Boks to play England in second test
9 Du Preez
7 Van Heerden
3 Du Plessis
2 Botha (capt)
1 Le Roux
16 Du Plessis
21 De Villiers
*Ludik would play against Ireland