Every South African rugby supporter is a selector. So who is your pick – by the position – and in an ideal world? Today the focus is on loosehead prop.
The boys at SA Rugby Magazine and myself will be picking our ideal Bok XV over the next two weeks.
Every day will be a different position. Check it out and pick your team here. You go into a draw to win two tickets to the Springboks v All Blacks at Ellis Park. Air fares and accommodation included.
It’s not about just who is fit at the moment. We want to establish the ideal Fans XV in the build-up to the World Cup.
Who, by weight of public opinion, is the ideal Bok run on XV.
Today I complete my picks with the selection of loosehead prop. Gurthro Steenkamp, when conditioned and operating at maximum, is the best South African loosehead. He was the South African player of the year in 2011 and hasn’t recaptured that form since moving to French club Toulouse.
But at his best, he remains the best.
Today the position is hooker and my man is Bismarck du Plessis. I agree with the decision to play Adriaan Strauss now and let Du Plessis be eased back into international rugby. Du Plessis, Strauss and Schalk Brits would be my three hookers in an ideal World Cup squad.
In an ideal starting XV Bismarck, when on form, is the world’s best.
On Wednesday the position was tighthead prop and the options, as with most countries outside of Italy and Argentina, are limited. Jannie du Plessis is the best of an unexceptional bunch who wear the No 3 jersey.
Du Plessis has improved over the last five years and he has consistently been the best in South Africa.
On Tuesday the position was No 4 lock
Eben Etzebeth has no equal in South Africa but I’d still involve Toulon-based veteran Bakkies Botha as back-up to the new young superstar. The duo, in a match 23, could do some serious damage. I’d also have no problem playing Eben at No 5 and Bakkies at No 4 if Bekker was not available.
On Monday the position was No 5 lock. My pick is Japan-based former Stormer Andries Bekker.
Sharks young lock Pieter Stef du Toit has the potential to be developed into a No 5 post 2015 and if Bekker is unavailable I’d even look at Eben Etzebeth as a No 5 option and Bakkies Botha to play at 4, but if Bekker is fit he has no equal among South African locks as a No 5. Japan will be good for refreshing his body and his mind. He still has a huge role to play come 2015 and the World Cup challenge.
Last Friday the position is open side flank. And my ideal selection is Cheetahs flank Heinrich Brussow. I’ll forever disagree with the Bok coach on this one. He doesn’t rate Brussow and believes his game is limited and that he is a penalty liability.
I see the opposite in Brussow. He is an asset. He is the reason for so many teams struggling to get quick phase ball against the Cheetahs, and I can’t recall many ordinary Bok performances from Brussow. He is a menace at the breakdown and while Francois Louw has done well in the last year I believe, if given the chance, Brussow would have done even better. He gets my vote. And always will.
On Thursday the position was blindside flanker – and my choice is Toulon-based former Bull Danie Rossouw.
Rossouw offers more over 80 minutes than Willem Alberts and his experience gives him the edge over Arno Botha.
Rossouw underlined his value with his performances for Toulon in their successful European Cup campaign.
On Wednesday the position was No 8.
Duane Vermeulen has done well in his limited international exposure but in my ideal Fans XV I still think overall Pierre Spies offers more. Joe van Niekerk and Danie Rossouw are another two who I consider still good enough to play for the Springboks between now and the 2015 World Cup. For me all of the four mentioned players would be in my Bok World Cup squad.
But only one can start at No 8 – and that man would be Spies, especially with Fourie du Preez there as my scrumhalf.
On Tuesday the position was scrumhalf
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer beat me to it when selecting Japanese-based Fourie du Preez.
The former Bulls man is the best scrumhalf for South Africa’s 2015 World Cup challenge. He is the most intelligent reader of the game in South Africa and one of the brightest in world rugby. He is also critical to the development of Johan Goosen at flyhalf.
Du Preez is the best: Invest in him.
On Monday the position was flyhalf..
My ideal No 10 is Johan Goosen.
Morne Steyn has been outstanding in 2013 and would definitely be in my World Cup squad, but the ideal player, if fit, is the Cheetahs flyhalf Goosen.
He adds an attacking dimension that has no equal among the other South African flyhalf contenders. He is the most complete of all the flyhalf contenders. Steyn, should Goosen not be available, is a quality replacement.
Pat Lambie just hasn’t done it for me as a flyhalf. He is better suited to fullback or can provide excellent positional cover on the bench.
Last week I selected the outside backs. My choice last Friday of left wing was Bryan Habana still rocks in the national jersey.
Habana had an awful 2011, which was more an issue of fatigue than anything else.
He remains the best South African left wing and is still good enough to challenge the best left wingers in the game.
Habana was outstanding in 2012 and his form was good in 2013. He will benefit from the new challenge of playing for Toulon. The 2015 World Cup will be his international climax and while he doesn’t have the electric pace that was so significant in his game in 2007, he is a more complete winger with the additional experience.
No left winger in South Africa has come close to having the same impact in a Bok jersey during the Habana era – and that era still has two seasons to go.
On Thursday I looked at inside centre. My pick is Jean de Villiers.
Jan Serfontein is the future at inside centre and his big World Cup will be in 2019, if he remains injury free, but I feel De Villiers still has one World Cup in him. I also believe he is the best inside centre in South Africa and one of the best in the world.
His experience is invaluable. He commands respect internationally and he has presence. The midfield combination of De Villiers and Fourie would still rank among the most imposing in the game. Factor in Serfontein to come off the bench and you are looking at something special.
De Villiers understands the nuances of Test rugby, just like Tana Umanga did for the All Blacks. The New Zealanders erred in not taking Umanga to the 2007 World Cup. His experience would have been a huge asset and De Villiers can play a similar role in 2015.
The national coach and Stormers management simply have to manage him effectively in the next 18 months. He also captains my team.
On Wednesday I looked at outside centre. There is only one player for me. Jaque Fourie.
He was the best outside centre in the game before he left for Japan and he is good enough to reclaim that position when he returns in 2015 to challenge for a World Cup place.
Fourie is like Wallabies legend George Smith. It doesn’t matter that he has been playing in Japan for the last two seasons. It may have added longevity to his career and I could still see him playing a season or two in Europe post the 2015 World Cup.
Fourie is the package deal at No 13. The closest to Fourie in South Africa is JJ Engelbrecht, in terms of power and pace. But Englebrecht doesn’t yet have the experience of Fourie and he doesn’t have the natural understanding of defensive structures. He is an investment and he will play in the Rugby Championship. But in an ideal Bok XV with an eye on the 2015 World Cup, Fourie is my man.
The right wing position has belonged exclusively to one man since 2006 – and he is JP Pietersen.
The former Sharks winger’s only weakness is his line kicking game. It has never been good, but outside of that he offers everything that s good about a world class winger. He is imposing in physique, strong in the tackle and invariably uses the touchline well. He will be at his peak in 2015, given he was just 21 years-old when he won the World Cup in 2007.
Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who assisted Jake White with the Boks in the 2007 World Cup campaign, rated Pietersen the better rugby player over Bryan Habana. Jones said Habana was an outstanding athlete and a very good rugby player but that that as far as wingers go Pietersen was the more complete winger. Jones referred to Pietersen’s ‘functional intelligence’ as one of his qualities as a winger.
Jones said this functional intelligence on a rugby field meant the player read the game well and understood the nuances of wing play. His off the ball contribution was as good as his impact with ball in hand.
My pick on Monday at fullback: Jaco Taute.
I know he is currently injured but I am thinking in terms of having the best available side to win back the World Cup. Who would I play in a World Cup final at Twickenham?
Taute experienced a horror season with the Stormers and got injured early in the season. But a fit Taute would be my choice to start at fullback for the Springboks.
I’d utilise Wille le Roux as an impact player or on the wing as a starting option. Taute, in competitions like the Rugby Championship and end-of-year tours to Europe and the United Kingdom, offers greater solidity and presence at fullback. He has a strong kicking game and his physicality and pace could add a dimension to the potency of the Bok back-three unit.
Taute’s skill set complements the likes of Bryan Habana and say Le Roux on the wing, or even a Gio Aplon or Bjorn Basson. But I feel the Boks in their build towards the World Cup, have to invest in Taute more as a fullback than outside centre.
Here’s what the boys at SA Rugby Magazine think.
Now let me know what you think.
My ideal Bok XV so far (with 2015 World Cup in mind)
15. Jaco Taute
14. JP Pietersen
13. Jaque Fourie
12. Jean de Villiers (capt)
11. Bryan Habana
10. Johan Goosen
9. Fourie du Preez
8. Pierre Spies
7. Danie Rossouw
6. Heinrich Brussow
5. Andries Bekker
4. Eben Etzebeth
3. Jannie du Plessis
2. Bismarck du Plessis
1. Gurthro Steenkamp