The Nosebleed Section #1
Blackout at the glasshouse?
It's been another tough week for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, but he remains extremely positive in the face of possibly another defeat, this time to New Zealand at Dunedin on Saturday.
It's not an easy place to play and South Africa has only ever won there once - under Peter de Villiers. Currently the All Blacks are also in fine form, while the Boks are injury ravaged and struggling to turn Meyer's game plan into a dominating one.
Selection-wise, this week I think the Bok team is even better balanced, if Jannie du Plessis and Pat Cilliers are fit. The loose trio in particular seems perfectly weighted, with Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw, although I would still like to see Heinrich Brussow ahead of Louw in the future.
Morne Steyn's selection is a tough one. His form has come on, but he's still not able to jumpstart Meyer's kicking game plan, even though his skills seem the perfect fit. I agree with Naas Botha's analysis on Supersport that Steyn needs to be given the option to run the backline and that the team generally needs to be allowed to play what they feel.
Even so, this is not a match the Springboks want to be kicking poorly in. The All Blacks gobble up every errant punt and retaliate with swift stabs at the opposition, inevitably slicing through anything less than rock solid defenses.
That's where Zane Kirchner's selection bothers me. His kicking is not bad, but it's predictable and I don't think he offers anything spectacular on attack. That will put the All Blacks at ease. I mean what's the worst that can happen if they kick onto Kirchner all day?
You can't say that about the All Blacks number 15 though. Israel Dagg is currently the best fullback in the world in my opinion. Not because he's got the best counter-attacking game, is like a magnet under the high ball and has developed a reliable boot. He's the best because the opposition dare not test him. He's consistent and makes teams pay for giving him a platform to attack. The Boks dare not test him this weekend.
Bafana importing talent?
There is certainly a fresh breeze blowing through the Bafana Bafana camp. New players you've never heard of are being called up and getting game time and that's a good thing in my opinion. In time Gordon Igesund will surely settle on a 'core' squad, but for now he's turning over every stone to check for hidden talent - like Portuguese left-back, Ricardo Nunes.
I may have had a fleeting moment of reservation for this approach, as Nunes, and indeed some of the other names on Igesund's hit-list, don't even consider themselves South African I think. Either way, the point is the 26-year-old is quite experienced in Europe and Igesund rates his ability.
Does it say the quality of the ABSA Premiership is below world-class standards? Not really, but it does point to the fact that Igesund is not one to play it safe with only players he knows or players he can relate to from the local league or a South African point of view. The new head coach is to my mind a mentor determined to identify the gems in the scratch patch and combine them to form a jewel of real value.
There are good players in South Africa and they won't be overlooked, but there's no point in ignoring eligible talent just because they don't call South Africa home. To be honest, I'm not sure I like that idea, but at the moment, if the guy's good, let him play!
Anyway, next month's friendly in Poland will be very interesting in terms of selection, but Igesund's positive attitude is winning him even more fans. The players look like they're enjoying the game and the spectators will certainly welcome the goals they're promising. Sports broadcasters however are dreading the pronunciation of the Polish venue for the clash on 12 October - Bydgoszcz. Any help would be appreciated.
Prioritising T20 glory?
Cricket's in a good space, but one issue that's bothering me is players getting rested when it seems they should be playing. The priorities are wrong I think. Jacques Kallis got time off for the one day matches to be fresh for the T20's. That's not right when you're playing the world's number one limited overs side, is it? Also, what about the legacy of King Kallis? The world's best all-rounder needs to play the big ones and I consider a series against England a big one - bigger than the World T20 I dare say.
But any trophy would do for South African cricket fans I guess and the shortest form of the game can be a joy to watch if you're in the mood for it. For me though, a one day series win over England is more valuable.
South Africa has a good chance as always to win the tournament in Sri Lanka, but these things are not always determined by ability or form as players are so often pushed to play beyond the framework of technical shot making or accurate bowling. It's all about being able to play unorthodox shots to frustrate bowlers and varying deliveries to keep batsmen guessing. Technical acumen and form will help, but it's probably a better idea to toss up six different balls of varying length and pace or if you're batting, to walk across your stumps to force a leg side shot. Now THOSE skills are applauded.
Yes, it's a different game altogether and perhaps Kallis should have played the ODI's and been rested during the World T20, where his ability is worth less and frenetic run chasing is a leveler. Make no mistake, I think Kallis will make a valuable contribution and who am I kidding? If the Proteas win this, my tune may change and we will celebrate the World T20 as the high profile cricketing showpiece that it is.