Bulls axis a must for Boks

Morne Steyn and Wynand Olivier have made a rock solid case for inclusion in the Springbok squad for the British & Irish series.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers won’t be able to justify their omission should he choose to overlook the Bulls duo, who were brilliant in the latter stages of the tournament, and never poor at any stage.

They were easily the best South African flyhalf and inside centre, and a strong case can be made for them being the finest in those positions in the tournament.

De Villiers has maintained that form will be one of the primary criterion for selection, and in a press conference last week, justified his selection of some of the players who fronted the Namibia XV saying, ‘If you’re good enough for the Super 14, you’re good enough to play for your country.’

Steyn and Olivier fit the bill comfortably.

It would be a travesty if Morgan Newman, the Stormers’ midfielder who De Villiers rates highly, is included ahead of Olivier. He is untested at Super 14 level, while Olivier has won two titles, has Test experience and a World Cup winner’s medal.

Olivier delivered a Man of the Match performance in the final, proving that he has the aptitude to not only front, but excel in pressure matches. If De Villiers was watching the entire tournament he would have noted that that performance was only one of a handful of outstanding efforts.

Newman’s selection is unlikely, but I’ve learnt never to underestimate De Villiers’ capacity for the unpredictable and illogical.

As it stands Jean de Villiers is the incumbent 12, with Frans Steyn likely to be included on the bench, primarily as cover for him, but also for his utility value. Continuity is key for any successful side, and in this regard, Peter de Villiers’ decision to remain consistent in his selection would be understandable. Olivier, however, has to be the official back-up to that duo.

Speaking to keo.co.za, Olivier said he wasn’t too focused on Springbok selection, but privately he will feel justifiably gutted if his name is not announced this evening.

‘I’d like to think that I’ve made a decent impression, but [Springbok selection] is out of my control,’ he said.

‘The last couple of months I’ve felt my form has been really good. But I never set out to win back my place in the Springbok side. Don’t misunderstand me, I still regard it as the highest honour to play for the Springboks. But I knew that [selection] would be a by-product of good form for the Bulls. So I set my stall to play well there.

‘I know what it feels like to be overlooked for Springbok selection, so while it will still be disappointing if I don’t make it, I think I’m equipped to deal with the disappointment a little better than I have in the past.’

Steyn shouldn’t be made to experience that type of pain this evening.

He commands a place in the squad on form. In fact, taking into account that he would have Bulls teammate Fourie du Preez, and experienced centre Jean de Villiers playing on either side of him, there is little to no risk in starting him.

That said, Ruan Pienaar should be retained at flyhalf for the same reason I support the retention of De Villiers at 12 with Steyn deputising ahead of Olivier, but Steyn offers as complete a repertoire as you could hope to find in a flyhalf. Neither Peter Grant nor Earl Rose boast his range of skills.

Steyn and Olivier’s selection are no-brainers, but nothing is ever simple in South African rugby. Here’s hoping common sense trumps stupidity.

By Ryan Vrede