A potential Catch 22 situation
April 2, 2012
Heyneke Meyer has much to ponder ahead of South Africa's Tests with England © Getty Images
The staggering amount of emerging talent in South Africa's Super Rugby squads once again illustrates why a Springboks coach's biggest problem will always be packaged as a politician.
However, Heyneke Meyer finds himself in a Catch 22 as the Test series against England draws ever closer. The English have showed definite signs of revival, which means South Africa will be ill-advised to pick a multitude of youngsters as they contemplate the way forward in June.
Meyer's dilemma is an obvious one: he must get a Test team to perform against England the Saturday after two derbies - between the Bulls and Stormers, and Lions and Sharks. Those games will be nothing but brutal and a team selected from those teams will need their first Monday together to be a training free one to recover from the bumps and bruises. And that is why Meyer is perhaps best off with going what has worked for South Africa and indeed himself before.
He will most probably be keen to rope in overseas-based players such Fourie du Preez, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Jaque Fourie and even Danie Rossouw in a bid to ensure that South Africa are in a position to compete with and even beat England. That means that the likes of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies, Morné Steyn, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Patrick Lambie are likely to feature prominently in Meyer's plans. So long as their form is not terrible, they will need to play because South Africa require continuity above all else to deal with England.
We have nevertheless seen the emergence of a freakish generation of young South African talent, with four 20-year-old Stormers forwards leading the way. Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe are remarkable prop talents, Eben Etzebeth has been South Africa's form No 4 lock and Siya Kolisi's talent has shone brightly on the flank in Burger's injury-enforced absence.
One can look well beyond the Cape side to spot the in-form youngsters. Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo showed a breathtaking turn of pace in scoring against the Brumbies at the weekend, while his young colleague on the flank, Marcell Coetzee, has dintinguished himself as an axceptional ball-carrier.
The Cheetahs' youngsters are also delivering. Star fly-half Johan Goosen is only 19, while loosehead prop Coenie Oosthuizen is developing well after being picked prematyurely for the Springboks' tour at the end of 2010. Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies has also looked like the business after being a silly selection on that same tour, while his team-mate Jaco Taute is an exceptional fullback and decent part-time centre.
The Bulls also have a fine young centre talent in Johann Sadie, though it may be a while before he can get past Fourie and Stormers outside centre Juan de Jongh at international level.
Come June, the sensible thing for Meyer would be to blend some of these youngsters with the established Boks. Etzebeth may be a good call with Andries Bekker in the second row. They are playing particularly well together at the Stormers and Etzebeth did not just handle the physicality of the Bulls at the weekend but took the fight to them.
As things stand, Kitshoff, Malherbe, Kolisi and Jantjies may be bench options and worth moulding for the long-term future.
Meyer can possibly be more expansive in plotting the way forward when he has time on his side. Still, South Africa are likely to enter their new era with very much an evolutionary mindset rather than making drastic changes. There is also an expanded Tri-Nations tournament to consider.
Much of what has been discussed here in team selections is hypothetical as there are variables such as injury and form that cannot be foreseen. However, it does illustrate an interesting predicament for Meyer and an interesting dynamic for the June series.
Meanwhile, South Africa are yet to announce Meyer's management team, but indications are that he will rely very much on staff that he is familiar with from the Blue Bulls. Ricardo Loubscher (backline), Johann van Graan (forwards), John McFarland (defence), Louis Koen (kicking) and Basil Carzis (conditioning) are likely appointments.
It has also been reliably learned that Rassie Erasmus has agreed a senior job at the South African Rugby Union, which will effectively see him act as a director rugby for teams and structures under Springboks level.
Erasmus's technical expertise will therefore not be lost to the Springboks and he is likely to be an important cog as they plan the way ahead. It's a road that will be a tricky one to negotiate.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
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