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Which Boks will fire out wide?

As the last line of defence and the men expected to run in the tries the back three play a vital role in any team, we take a look at the options for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

 

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has an array of different talents to choose from with many different strengths, so his final selection of outside backs should give a strong indication of the gameplan his team will adopt.

 

The players who do get the nod will have to blend powerful running, hard tackling, explosive speed, slick aerial skills and shrewd positional play in order to make an impact at Test level.

 

On the left wing it would appear to be a shoot-out between incumbent Bryan Habana, Sharks flyer Lwazi Mvovo and Bulls try-machine Bjorn Basson, while the Cheetahs' Willie le Roux could be a dark horse.

 

Habana is the top try scorer of all time for South Africa, and aside from his experience he has made a fairly strong case by playing with characteristic determination this season.

 

Selecting Habana would be the safe option as his commitment and experience are unquestioned, and he has improved considerably on his form from last year, but he is no longer quicker than the rest and Mvovo and Basson are both proven try-scorers that each offer something different.

 

Mvovo has plenty of explosive power and his strength in contact makes him particularly tough to bring down, although one possible weakness is his vulnerability under the high ball.

 

Basson has no such trouble, as his aerial abilities are unmatched and he could find himself in the starting line-up if Meyer decides that the up-and-under should be a focus of the Springbok gameplan, although his defensive frailty should count against him quite heavily.

 

Le Roux has shown some amazing touches on attack in his debut Super Rugby season this year, but there are serious question marks over his defensive capabilities which could be exposed at Test level.

 

On the right wing JP Pietersen is favourite to retain the No.14 jersey, with the Ndungane brothers and Gio Aplon his biggest rivals and Francois Hougaard an outside bet, depending on whether Fourie du Preez starts at scrumhalf.

 

Both Odwa and Akona Ndungane are reliable players, but Odwa did not even make the latest 42-man squad and it would be a major surprise to see Akona in the team as he does not boast as much Test experience as the other contenders and is nearing the end of his career.

 

The versatile Aplon is an elusive runner who has the ablity to break the game open and can be devastating on the counter-attack, but his lightweight frame will count against him, leaving the accomplished Pietersen as the most likely candidate.

 

At fullback the biggest contender for Pat Lambie's spot is Stormers man Joe Pietersen who has looked calm and collected all season, displaying a solid all-round game since returning from France. 

 

Lambie showed against the Stormers last week that he will have no trouble moving back to the position he played throughout his school career and for the Boks at the World Cup last year, and with both Jaco Taute and Hennie Daniller sidelined through injury Pietersen is the only realistic alternative.

 

Springbok outside backs

 

Starting:

 

11 Lwazi Mvovo:

He has been a constant threat out wide for the Sharks this season, and easily matches Habana for pace and physicality whilst his handling is markedly better. He has instinctive finishing abilities and is more solid on defence than Basson which gets him our vote.

 

14 JP Pietersen:

He is a world class operator out wide, with power, pace and experience on his side which makes him the only choice in this position.

 

15 Pat Lambie:

His well-rounded skill-set and composure under pressure make him well-suited to the job, and although Joe Pietersen has played well this season Lambie's established relationship with the Sharks wings gives him the edge.

 

Bench:

 

22 Gio Aplon:

His ability to play any position in the back three makes him the ultimate impact player and his electric pace and massive step could be exactly what the Boks need to take advantage of their weary opponents late in the game. 

 

By Michael de Vries

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