Springbok spine: Making the right selection calls
SPOTLIGHT: South Africa is scheduled to only name their team on Friday, a move from the usual midweek, early announcements the Springbok management made throughout the World Cup tournament.
The change in plan, ahead of their quarterfinal face-off against hosts France could be a suggestion the defending champions are keeping an ace up their sleeves, or they may want to keep their opponents guessing.
Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids quipped that they want to keep the media guessing.
However, the persiflage aside, the Bok selectors will have some important decisions to make.
The spine is where the selectors need to nail it.
At hooker, there is only one choice – Bongi Mbonambi. Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden may both be on the bench, but Mbonambi WILL start.
At lock, Franco Mostert and Eben Etzebeth seem to have gotten the jump on the rest, although there is a strong case to be made for RG Snyman and Jean Kleyn.
At No.8 it is a straight choice between Duane Vermeulen and Jasper Wiese – a wise old head versus ‘youthful exuberance’.
Probably the most challenging selection will be the halfback positions – scrumhalf and flyhalf.
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Faf de Klerk seems to be the preferred choice at No.9 – with Grant Williams, Cobus Reinach and Jaden Hendriks contesting the bench spot.
The Handre Pollard versus Manie Libbok debate at No.10 will reach unprecedented heights in the next few days.
There will also be debates over Damian de Allende versus Andre Esterhuizen at No.12 and Willie le Roux or Damian Willemse at No.15.
However, it is flyhalf that is and will continue to cause the biggest stir.
De Klerk was asked the question at Monday’s media briefing and he did not sugarcoat his views.
The question mark over Libbok’s inconsistent goal-kicking will remain.
The three kicks from three against Tonga, when the game was already over as a contest, have not silenced his doubters.
The more experienced and level-headed Pollard, 29, showed his class, but has played just 50 minutes since his return from a calf injury he suffered back in May while on duty with Leicester Tigers.
“It’s great to have Handre Pollard back. He’s part of the furniture,” De Klerk said at Monday’s briefing.
“I think his calm demeanour on the field in big pressure situations is really something that can help us a lot in play-off games.
“Then you have Manie, who is playing unbelievably well.
“His organisation is great and he allows us to score great tries.
“There’s a good balance between the two of them.
“Anyone of them can get the nod, I’m very fortunate to be able to pass the ball to them,” he added.
Friday will provide the answers to all those questions!