Bryan Habana wasn’t going to tour five days ago. Now he will start at outside centre against Ireland. So much for national squad planning.
The experiment with Habana is a good one, but the question is how can a guy walk from the gymnasium into the test team when he was originally not in the plans?
When White rested Habana he said it was to put the player on a strength course. They wanted Habana to be bigger in World Cup year and four weeks on tour would only ensure he lost bulk. The Habana ‘get bigger’ programme was shreaded when Jaque Fourie broke his hand. Now the quickest player in South Africa will start at outside centre.
Habana started his provincial career in the midfield and it was White who moved him to the wing. Again, it must be emphasised that Habana is unlikely to flop. The issue here is not whether Habana is good enough, but what happened to the plan around Habana staying home and being rehabilitated for next year? The Bulls flyer has not played since hurting himself against the All Blacks at Rustenburg. He will not have had a game in two months and will be expected to front against one of the best midfield combinations in the world in Dublin. It is a big ask, but it does ask more questions of the planning of this management team.
White, so critical of Super 14 and provincial coaches when it comes to the issue of playing players out of position, will do exactly this when confirming Jaco Pretorius (centre) and Francois Steyn (fullback/flyhalf) as his test wingers. Both will be making their debuts and while White waxed lyrical about each player’s ability to adapt to the wing position, it is again not the point. Hopefully we’ll never hear White taking a pot at other coaches about playing players out of position, although it is wishful thinking given what a walking contradiction White has become in the last year.
White, in picking two white wingers, can also never complain that he is under threat to pick black players because of quota regulations. He has JP Pietersen and specialist winger Akona Ndungane in his squad, but it seems they will miss out. Unless of course there’s another late change, as happened when White dropped Breyton Paulse for the England test in 2004 and was then forced to pick him when government intervened.
White will also start with the less effective kicking game of Ricky Januarie (ahead of Ruan Pienaar) – another very odd choice when you consider Januarie has not played for two months and Pienaar completed the Sharks Currie Cup season.
The Boks will show several changes to the team that beat the Wallabies in Johannesburg.
Probable Bok team to play Ireland: Fortuin, Steyn, Habana, De Villiers, Pretorius (Jaco), Pretorius (Andre), Januarie, Cronje, Smith, Spies, Van den Berg, Muller, Van der Linde/Botha, Smit and Carstens/Sephaka.
*Sephaka’s inclusion could again be forced because of the ethnic black issue. If White does not pick Ndungane, he may be forced to name Sephaka in his line-up.