A time to tinker for Boks and Bafana
In the Nosebleed Section this week, Wesley Petersen argues the teams are starting to get selections right.
The most surprising thing about the sporting week was not Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wonder goal or the fact that he actually scored four against England. It was definitely not the Proteas draw against Australia at the Gabba (after all they lost an entire day). It was certainly no surprise that Zambia beat Bafana Bafana. The big surprise to me was that some people have been talking up Scotland who face the Boks in Edinburgh on Saturday.
Of course the Boks can lose as history has shown, but surely this Scottish side cannot hold a candle to the Boks, unless we let them in the game. The All Blacks bled 22 points against the Scots last week because they prioritised their sharpening of their attacking movements under Test match conditions. The Boks don’t have the balls for that and should employ a ‘winning rugby’ strategy as they have been under Heyneke Meyer.
Juan de Jongh’s selection may not have been a surprise, but I want to commend Meyer for having a heart and the foresight not to follow through on the idea to rest Jean de Villiers as well. That would have made de Jongh’s start pointless alongside an inexperienced inside centre and we would’ve learned nothing. I expect we will learn loads with de Villiers and de Jongh in midfield this weekend. Midfield has been one of the areas least celebrated in the current Bok setup. Even with the brilliant Frans Steyn at 12, we seemed devoid of any will to be creative and in fact mostly murdered the ball through systematic suffocation.
Meyer’s selections are getting there. Slowly. Now we just need more freedom on the pitch and I’ll be happier.
Gordon Igesund is in a similar situation to Meyer with Bafana Bafana. He’s trying out combinations at the moment and something was definitely off against Zambia. Of course we are missing the retired Steven Pienaar, but no use dwelling on that. We also have this uncanny problem that strikers are getting injured. The at times majestic Tokelo Rantie’s the latest forward to breakdown.
Regardless of those issues, I think we are getting closer to a team for the Africa Cup of Nations. Not everyone’s a fan, but Khune is great in goals for me and has a wicked set of distribution skills – world class in that department. Nunes defends well for a relatively attacking fullback, but Ngcongca is not entirely convincing at the back. Captain Khumalo’s performances are not inspiring and I hope it’s not the armband weighing too heavy on him. In midfield Furman will be well utilized as a holding midfielder and I’d like to see him paired with Letsholonyane, who is the man to deliver the killer through ball in my playbook. Chabangu adds some real weight in experience and he knows his way around the pitch. Up front I think Parker adds the unpredictability needed, while Rantie is ahead of Mphela, although both are now injured.
Igesund should get the extended training camp he wants and I think Bafana can make us proud at the Nations Cup. We will not be favourites, but then again neither was the class of 1996.
Wesley Petersen is EWN's Sport Editor.