If you are thinking your office, pub and living room debates are heated, try being in a Springbok selectors meeting ahead of the Ireland series, knowing full well that Uncle Fikile is breathing down your neck.
The Sports Ministry under, Fikile Mbalula, wants a 60% player of colour representation in the national side. In essence, this translates to 14 of the match day 23 being players of colour. However, the problem is that there seems to be a lack of transformation in the Super Rugby squads and therefore balancing Fikile’s expectations and those of a rugby mad public become fairly difficult. Simply put, Coetzee cannot be expected to perform miracles overnight. The transformation issue itself is a discussion for another time and the purpose of this post is to try take a look at who should crack the nod to make the Bok side based on form predominantly.
Now I have kept close tabs on Super Rugby this year, thanks largely to my obsession with playing Fantasy Rugby Draft. Based on what I have seen, along with a handful of stats, I have come up with what I would like to see the Bok side be for the Ireland tests.
The team I have selected sees a 10 out of 23 player of colour representation (43.5%), based on the fact that Damian de Allende is classified as a player of colour. I have also not considered overseas Boks, barring Johan Goosen, due to the fact that I feel that you should play in your country to play for your country (this debate will be tackled at a later stage though).
Starting at the back, I would stick with Willie le Roux as a first choice fullback for now and look to phase Lambie into the 15 shirt (this is where I feel Lambie is best suited and it is where he has turned out his best Bok performances #RWC2011).
Lwazi Mvovo is an easy choice at wing as is Ruan Combrinck. The Lions winger, Combrinck, was outstanding in last year’s Super Rugby and has proven himself once again in 2016.
De Allende hasn’t been all that sharp since coming back from injury, but he is showing steady progress and is an outstanding midfielder. Lionel Mapoe deserves his shot at centre and it is a crime that he has not had more opportunities for the Boks in the past.
As with Mapoe, Elton Jantjies deserves his crack after yet another barnstorming domestic season. I feel he is vulnerable at crunch time, but what better way to put this to the test and prove me wrong than giving him a crack against Ireland?
Rudi Paige, not the best halfback in the world, but he has played a fair bit of Super Rugby now and spent plenty time in the Bok setup in 2015. It is at scrumhalf that the Boks will have their biggest concern with injury to Cobus Reinach and the retirement of Fourie du Preez.
Warren Whiteley, like Mapoe, Jantjies and Combrinck, deserves a proper shot in the Bok jersey. The Lion King is just too good to be ignored and ought to be rewarded for his performances as well as his loyalty to South African rugby. I would have him as the interim captain for this incoming series.
Kolisi should have played over 30 Tests by now and is an easy choice at 7, whilst Jaco Kriel simply cannot be ignored any longer or he will most likely be packing down on the side of the scrum with CJ Stander come the next Irish tour.
The lock selections were among the easiest in the team as virtually no one comes close to the Stormers duo of Etzebeth and Du Toit.
Malherbe and Beast are simple choices as props and anyone who has watched five minutes of a Lion’s game this year will know that Malcolm Marx is the best hooker in the competition behind Dane Coles.
The bench is fairly straight forward with form players being picked. Scarra and Redlinghuys have been in the Bok setup before and have performed well over many seasons at domestic level. Mostert and Carr have been real talisman this year to follow up on good showings last year. Faf de Klerk has shown some concerns around consistency, but there is no doubt that the talent is there. Paul Jordaan has had some knee issues in the recent past, but those seem to be behind him. A good turn of speed, an eye for the gap and a tackle count most flankers would be proud of – he deserves his shot.
Other ‘bolters‘ I would like to see involved in the setup based on their current form are: Edgar Marutlulle, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Lizo Gqoboko, Jean-Luc du Preez and Daniel du Preez.
*Elton Jantjies is believed to not be available for the Boks in June due to injury, in which case Lambie would slot into 10 and Racing Metro’s Johan Goosen would have to provide cover. Therefore, the side I expect the selectors to pick will also vary with Lambie to slot in at 10 with either Goosen or Steyn as cover.
My Springbok XV for Ireland Tests:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Elton Jantjies (Pat Lambie), 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Julian Redlinghuys, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Pat Lambie (Johan Goosen), 23 Paul Jordaan.
What I think the selectors will go with:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies (Pat Lambie), 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie (Morne Steyn/Johan Goosen), 23 Jesse Kriel.
And just for fun this is the All Black team I would go with:
15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Patrick Tuipolotu, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumauina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.