MARK KEOHANE, in Business Day Newspaper, writes the Bok June internationals should be about expression and not depression.
Heyneke Meyer’s selections are an accurate reflection of Super Rugby form and loyalty to the core players he entrusted in 2012.
Robert Ebersohn is unfortunate but he will be a Springbok before the end of the season. Heinrich Brussow will probably have to change his name or his provincial base to get a reaction from the Bok coach. Outside of that there should be little to vent about.
The Japanese based South African players are not available and Meyer has not considered any of the French-based South African players, many of whom have completed 35-plus match seasons.
Only Ruan Pienaar (Ulster) and Francois Louw (Bath) make the squad. The only other realistic contender would have been Saracens’s Schalk Brits but his form in 2013 has not matched the impact of 2012 and the hookers chosen are right for the assignment of knocking over Scotland, Italy and Samoa, if the Boks get to play the Pacific Islanders.
There is no way to sugar coat the South African international season. It is second rate opposition, which doesn’t mean a second rate performance should be tolerated or accommodated.
Meyer has the ideal build-up to the Rugby Championship because there is no pressure on him in June. Talk to the contrary is merely a public relations exercise.
Scotland are missing their four best players and Italy have never traveled well to the southern hemisphere. Samoa will be strengthened by the arrival of 10 quality players but the 74-14 embarrassment against the Lions at Ellis Park highlighted the limited squad depth.
South Africa will beat all three sides, regardless of who Meyer selects. The result is not for discussion. What is of interest will be the combinations Meyer selects and the integration of old with new.
Jean de Villiers captains the side again but his work load has to be managed. De Villiers has not missed a Super Rugby game and the Boks require him to be firing against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina more than they do against Scotland and Italy.
The back three combination offers the potential of inspiration but Meyer will have to deviate from type in actually starting with Willie le Roux and Gio Aplon. Expect only one of them in the match 22.
South Africa has X-factor players in the backs. Le Roux and Aplon, if trusted to play the situation, are game breakers. Jan Serfontein is a special talent and JJ Engelbrecht has responded to the challenge of being axed last season.
Engelbrecht has improved his defensive understanding at outside centre and he will only get better with exposure.
The loose-forward dynamic is not ideal because of Duane Vermeulen’s injury enforced absence and Pierre Spies doesn’t offer the same physicality as a No 8.
Spies offers other attributes and he has been good in Super Rugby. He deserves to be in the squad.
Arno Botha will benefit from getting more game time and Morne Steyn will probably alternate with Pat Lambie because of his unavailability for the Rugby Championship.
The quality of squad is impressive, especially when considered who isn’t there. Some very good players have missed out.
There has to be an expectation of this side, but critical to the delivery on expectation will be the mindset of the coaching staff.
Meyer’s approach during the November internationals offered more frustration than inspiration.
The Boks won all three Tests, but they played with a conservative, low risk approach. Players were rewarded for not making mistakes and innovation and invention weren’t on the tour schedule.
Meyer needs to enjoy his time more as Bok coach. The world does not end if the Boks struggle or lose but to the average South African supporter it does seem to be a better place when the Boks play to their ability.
This should be a month of expression and not depression.
Hopefully Meyer will trust the game breakers and the newbie’s against second tier opposition. Hopefully.
Meyer should also not be accused of provincial bias because every Bulls player, on form, deserves to be in the Bok squad.
Those who will counter Zane Kirchner’s claims need only ask if not Kirchner then who else?
I would start with Le Roux or Aplon at fullback, but the options at 15 are limited.
Super Rugby breaks for a month and the Bulls deservedly lead the South African Conference.
They play the best brand of rugby and currently are a better all-round side than the Cheetahs, who have excelled in winning more matches this season than at any time.
Meyer has rewarded the best of the Cheetahs. Now he needs to reward the best of the Boks by trusting their natural attacking instincts.