by Fanie Heyns

Nine new caps

Will fans see more pace and flair?

Jean de Villiers; Will he be allowed to play to his potential?
Jean-de-Villiers.jpg

Nine uncapped players were named, including Willie le Roux and Jan Serfontein, in the Springbok squad for the forthcoming Castle Lager Incoming Series as coach Heyneke Meyer unveiled his plans for the new international season in the Mother City on Saturday night.

The major posers for Springbok fans are: will South Africa inject more pace from the base of the scrum, and will they play with more attacking flair in 2013?

The South African management team admitted over the weekend that they have politely asked the Super Rugby franchises to improve their quality of play at the breakdowns.

They wanted quicker release to speed up the offensive play from those phases, and it was evident in the clash between the Cheetahs and the Bulls that these two leading SA teams have obliged.

Meyer was alarmed about the quality of goal-kicking in 2012, as the sharpshooters only succeeded with 56% of their kicks.

But Morné Steyn and Patrick Lambie have been superb in this respect in 2013, and the coach has little to worry about.

Meyer noted that South Africa had scored 22 tries in 2012, and did better in this respect than Australia – a team perceived to be a more potent attacking unit than the Boks.

However, South Africa will have to inject much more pace into their attacks than was the case in the latter part of 2012.

It is of no use that the Boks ensure quick release at the breakdowns if the scrumhalf takes 30 seconds or more with the ball at his feet to patiently ponder his next move.

All it does, is give the defensive lines enough time to reorganise in order to smother the next attacking move.

The sterile attacking performance by the Stormers on Saturday underlines the SA attacking frailties in Super Rugby.

The Stormers, with five senior Springboks at the back, have battled to breach the defensive lines and score tries.

Will the Boks improve in this respect during the June tests?

Another question that Springbok fans will be hotly debating, is who will be in the starting 15 when the Springbok team is announced for the clash with Italy on Saturday in Durban.

Serfontein was superb during the 30-25 win against the Free State Cheetahs as the Bulls virtually clinched the SA conference title against the local team second from the top.

But Jean de Villiers is the incumbent at number 12, and also the national skipper.

In 2012, he was initially employed at outside-centre against England, with Francois Steyn used as inside-centre.

Later, De Villiers played at inside-centre and Juan de Jongh filled the number-13 spot.

De Jongh is part of the large 34-man squad announced by Meyer on Saturday.

But the coach acknowledged that De Jongh and Zane Kirchner, who returned for the Bulls on Saturday after a long injury layoff, may not be used in the first international against Italy in Durban.

That leaves Meyer with a quandary. Must he use De Villiers at inside-centre, with JJ Engelbrecht as his midfield partner – or should Serfontein play as number 12, leaving De Villiers with the job of attacking on the outside?

Many observers feel that De Villiers, at 32, is in the twilight of his career and no longer has the turn of pace that has made him such a world-class operator in his prime.

Those observers may be interested to note that De Villiers and Bryan Habana are the fastest players in the Stormers squad over 40 metres.

The Stormers have not done De Villiers any favours with their style of play, using the big centre continuously to run through a proverbial brick wall and test the first line of defence in order to set up the next phase.

The Stormers expect him to be a battering ram and a Vodacom Durban July-winning horse at the same time. It is simply unfair.

The Bok selectors would obviously want to introduce the very attacking and intuitively brilliant Cheetahs right wing, Willie le Roux, off the bench, but here again they are faced with a selection poser.

They will use Francois Hougaard off the bench, as well as Lambie – but if Engelbrecht is in the starting team, they need someone to cover at centre.

They may decide to select Serfontein instead of Le Roux as their third backline reserve to cover in case of midfield injuries.

If Meyer believes Lambie can cover at centre, where he has performed admirably on occasion in 2012, he would give Le Roux a chance (on the substitute bench) instead of Serfontein.

The Bok selectors must be applauded for their choices. They casted the net wide and included some real speedsters among the loose trio in Pieter Labuschagne and Arno Botha.

Botha has already forced the Bulls selectors to include him in their starting lineup, with his amazing attacking ability and his forceful probing runs.

If he continues in this vein, Willem Alberts will have his work cut out at number seven in the national lineup.

Expect the Bok selectors to remain faithful to the Bok pack who played for most of 2012, with the exception of the injured Duane Vermeulen and Bismarck du Plessis, and the slightly out-of-favour Marcell Coetzee.

So they will use Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Juandré Kruger, Francois Louw, Pierre Spies and Alberts in the starting team.

Pieter-Steph du Toit, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane and Botha may be on the substitute bench.

Nyakane (24) is a short loosehead prop at 1.78 metres and weighs 110 kilogrammes, but he is more than solid in the scrums and a superb ball carrier. He underlined this with his brutal burst to score the bonus point try for the Cheetahs on Saturday (against the Bulls).

Lourens Adriaanse, Nyakane, Labuschagne and Le Roux (all Cheetahs) were among the surprises in the big Springbok squad announced on Saturday.

Adriaanse and Oosthuizen are vital for the Bok cause. If they scrum well against excellent units such as Scotland and Italy, it will alleviate the proverbial headache about the lack of depth at tighthead prop.

Patrick Cilliers was used off the substitute bench at national level in 2012, but is currently injured.

Surprisingly, the selectors opted for Adriaanse instead of Sharks prop Wiehahn Herbst in the 34-man Bok squad.

Technically, Adriaanse is a superb player in the scrums and his support play in the lineouts and at the breakdowns deserves mention.

He has also ‘studied’ and ‘completed his apprenticeship’ under a master in the art of prop play, Os du Randt, at the Cheetahs.


The Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Incoming Series 2013: (province and test caps in brackets)

Lourens Adriaanse (Griquas, 0)
Willem Alberts (The Sharks, 20)
Gio Aplon (Western Province, 18)
Bjorn Basson (Blue Bulls, 6)
Arno Botha (Blue Bulls, 0)
Marcell Coetzee (The Sharks, 12)
Juan de Jongh (Western Province, 14)
Jean de Villiers (captain) (Western Province, 84)
Bismarck du Plessis (The Sharks, 46)
Jannie du Plessis (The Sharks, 42)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (The Sharks, 0)
JJ Engelbrecht (Blue Bulls, 1)
Eben Etzebeth (Western Province, 11)
Bryan Habana (Western Province, 83)
Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls, 27)
Zane Kirchner (Blue Bulls, 24)
Siya Kolisi (Western Province, 0)
Juandré Kruger (Blue Bulls, 8)
Pieter Labuschagne (FS Cheetahs, 0)
Pat Lambie (The Sharks, 20)
Willie le Roux (Griquas, 0)
Francois Louw (Bath, England, 17)
Tendai Mtawarira (The Sharks, 41)
Lwazi Mvovo (The Sharks, 7)
Trevor Nyakane (FS Cheetahs, 0)
Coenie Oosthuizen (FS Cheetahs, 2)
Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, N Ireland, 63)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (Blue Bulls, 21)
Jan Serfontein (Blue Bulls, 0)
Pierre Spies (Blue Bulls, 50)
Morné Steyn (Blue Bulls, 42)
Adriaan Strauss (FS Cheetahs, 21)
Flip van der Merwe (Blue Bulls, 23)
Jano Vermaak (Blue Bulls, 0)

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