Jake White says deciding on his back-up options at hooker and centre were hardest calls he had to make when deciding on his final 30 for the World Cup.
The Springbok coach and national selectors finally settled on Wynand Olivier and Gary Botha in those roles, with Waylon Murray and Bismarck Du Plessis the unlucky losers in the mix. Both could have felt justifiably disappointed, having delivered impressive displays in the limited game time they received.
White however explained that he wanted to remain true to his philosophy of continuity in selection and added that the versatility of Olivier and other backline players influenced the call in midfield.
“Look, it was helluva tough because both Waylon and Bismarck played well when given an opportunity, but I’m pleased with the final call,” White told Keo.co.za.
“We weren’t sure if we should have gone with two or three hookers and in the end Bismarck was unlucky that we went for two. As far as Waynand’s inclusion goes, he’s played a big role for us last season [he played in all 12 Tests in 2006] and covers inside and outside centre as well as wing.
“We felt we had enough cover in midfield given that Bryan Habana and Ashwin Willemse can cover outside centre and Butch James and Frans Steyn inside centre,” he explained.
Asked whether Chiliboy Ralepelle was ever in selection contention despite not having a played since round three of the Super 14, the coach said he was and still is.
“Always in the mix,” White said of the Bulls youngster, expected to return to competitive action in early September. “I spoke to him last after the Samoa Test to find out how his rehabilitation was going and discussed his chances of being fit for the tournament.
“He’s still part of the mix and if we pick up injuries he could come into the reckoning.”
The other call that hung in the balance was who the national selectors would opt for at flyhalf. Derick Hougaard got his chance to prove his aptitude for Test rugby, but failed to impress White, which meant Andre Pretorius got the nod to serve as back-up to Butch James.
“After watching the player [Hougaard] against the calibre of teams like Australia and New Zealand we decided that Andre would be the best option,” White said.
“His [Pretorius'] experience also played a big role. There is a night and day difference between in terms of caps between Pretorius and the other options at flyhalf and he’s beaten England and New Zealand which is a huge bonus from a psychological point of view when we face those teams at the World Cup.”
By Ryan Vrede