Without a ball being kicked in anger yet, it seems appropriate that on Friday night ahead of Heyneke Meyer’s first Test in charge of the Springboks, that rap-rave act ‘Die Antwoord’ are performing in Durban.
A bit of a long shot perhaps, but with what we’ve seen from the Boks thus far on paper over the last few months, it would appear that the Rugby World Cup in 2015 is all but sewn up.
Between now and then though there’ll be in the region of just under 40 Test matches for Meyer to chisel, hone and at times bring out the big hammer, as he builds a team - his team.
It all starts in Durban tomorrow at 5pm.
Having touched base with both camps in Durban this week, there’s an overall similarity in the two and it stems from both of the coaches, Meyer and Stuart Lancaster. They come across as honest, insightful and realistic in accepting their respective side’s limitations. It’s a solid base from which their teams can build.
For Meyer though, the time has finally come. After months of media hype around his appointment, planning camps, squad selection and then ultimately this weekend’s team selection, he’s picked 22 available players who he believes are the best to serve him right now. The public’s outcry over the selections have been vociferous but largely provincial and one must applaud him for making decisions devoid of emotion, with the sole focus of winning a Test series.
He’s reiterated time and again that he’s not interested in serving rugby fanatics but is rather focused solely on what’s written on the top left hand corner of the TV screen; if the Boks are ahead after 80 minutes, no matter the score, he’s done his job.
Eyes tomorrow will be firmly focused on the lock pairing of Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth, who are both making their debuts. It’s a selection made because the Boks don’t see the England lineout threat in perhaps the same way they would view Ireland’s or even Scotland’s. He’s also opted to forego the inclusion of an out-and-out fetcher in Heinrich Brussow within his squad, but has backed that decision up with the stats and concerns over that one uncontrollable variable that has permeated the game – the referee - and how he’ll officiate at the breakdown.
And perhaps this week’s most talked about topic - the inclusion of Zane Kirchner at fullback ahead of Patrick Lambie. It’s thought that in time Meyer will opt for Jaco Taute, who’s injured, ahead of Lambie too. Kirchner’s inclusion is not necessarily one I agree with, but one that I understand.
Perhaps a crumb of comfort though for Bok fans, is if they think that Kirchner’s a ‘dicey’ selection, then Mike Brown at fullback for England’s is like gambling your house at the Suncoast Casino down the road here. Left-footed and without great pace, he’s had a good season for Harlequins who won the domestic Premiership in England, but was left in the international wilderness nearly 5 years ago amidst claims he would never have the class to be an international player. Heard that before? Expect him to be put under masses of pressure this weekend with the Bok kicking game.
And then what a moment in the respective centres; Jean de Villiers takes charge of his very first Springbok side while in jersey 12 for England, the former Sharks centre Brad Barritt makes a return to his old home more accustomed to “staying in Durban with his folks or his brother” hoping to snare a Springbok.
It’s a massive week for Springbok rugby, as it heralds the start of a new era. Perhaps an omen for Meyer was that at a difficult sponsors quiz evening involving England and Springbok trivia on Thursday to welcome visiting media and dignitaries as well as the local press pack, the SARU CEO Jurie Roux and Bok Media Manager De Jongh Borchardt, came out way on top to claim first prize.
The Boss has upped his game, now it’s time for the Coach and the Players to do the same.
Prediction: Boks by 8. Let us know yours.
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