The vagaries of South African rugby selection have once again surfaced with the naming of the 28 man squad to take on the best of British in the upcoming test series.
While most of the squad is fairly predictable, it is the inclusions of the sublimely named Chilliboy Ralepelle and uncapped Earl Rose that are most notable.
One player who should feel justifiably shattered is Bulls’ fullback, Zane Kirchner. Kirchner produced some champagne rugby during the Super 14 that has clearly gone unnoticed by the Bokkie selectors, who have instead opted for the fickle talent of Rose.
Even more bizarre is the selection of Ralepelle ahead of Bulls’ teammate Derick Kuun, even though Kuun kept Ralepelle on the bench for the entire Super 14…go figure?
The rest of the Bokkie forwards are an imposing bunch, particularly when you consider the option the South Africans have in playing a four prop rotation as captain, John Smit, spent nearly all of the Super 14 at tight-head prop. The selection of 6’9″ Andries Bekker, ahead of workhorse Johan Muller, suggests the Boks will look to play field position and dominate the Lions at the line-out.
Add to this the biggest back-row in world rugby of Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and the ultra-dynamic Pierre Spies, and you get the feeling that Peter de Villiers is looking for a good old fashioned bash fest that will cower the Lions into submission.
Calling Springbok backs exciting and skilful has not been commonplace in the last few years, but this lot look exactly that. There is a fantastic mix of abrasiveness and finesse in equal measure that will trouble the Lions considering the constant supply of front foot ball the Saffer forwards should offer them.
The Boks are spoilt for choice everywhere but the spots up for grabs are clearly are numbers 10,12 and 13. Morne Steyn will more than likely get first crack at fly-half ahead of Ruan Pinnear who is taylor-made for the bench, with his ability to cover both scrummie and fly-half.
The centres, well take your pick. A decent case for inclusion can be made for any combination of Waynard Olivier, Jaque Fourie, Adrian Jacobs and Jean de Villiers, however the defensive frailties of Jacobs may count against him. The only certainty appears to be Frankie Steyn who won’t feature in the centres but at fullback in the absence of a specialist no.15.
Running the backline show will be maestro, Fourie du Preez, who is without exception the best scrum-half in world rugby at the moment by a substantial distance.
The last time the Lions took on a World Cup winning team – they lost, and this series looks like no exception. The pride of South African rugby took a massive hit the last time the Lions toured the Republic, but it doesn’t appear likely that the same fate awaits the Bokkies this year.
1. Gurthrö Steenkamp
2. John Smit (captain)
3. Deon Carstens
4. Bakkies Botha
5. Victor Matfield (vice-captain)
6. Schalk Burger
7. Juan Smith
8. Pierre Spies
9. Fourie du Preez
10. Morné Steyn
11. Bryan Habana
12. Jean de Villiers
13. Wynand Olivier
14. JP Pietersen
15. Frans Steyn
16. Tendai Mtawarira
17. Bismarck du Plessis
18. Andries Bekker
19. Danie Rossouw
20. Ruan Pienaar
21. Adrian Jacobs
22. Odwa Ndungane