It may be mischievous to say there are a handful of White quota players in the Springbok World Cup squad, but there certainly are players who can count themselves most fortunate that Heyneke Meyer obviously has such a high opinion of them.
There are the walking wounded of Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen and Coenie Oosthuizen, and overseas-based players like Schalk Brits and Morne Steyn who have been chosen ahead of younger talent that has excelled in Super Rugby.
I fully back the selection of De Villiers – he has performed for the last four years both in terms of his own play and the captaincy, and his tenacious return from a serious knee injury and then a fractured jaw should be applauded. Having worked so hard to be fit for the World Cup, De Villiers will undoubtedly bring immense hunger to the tournament. Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende are the in-form centres but are both inexperienced in high-pressure situations, so there’s no question De Villiers is there on merit.
Meyer is undoubtedly gambling on Du Preez and Vermeulen, who have not played a Test this year, but if they do come off they are the sort of players who can win you the World Cup, so I support their inclusion as well, even though there are major question marks surrounding them.
But there must be something else going on that the rugby media are not aware of when it comes to the selection of Oosthuizen. For all the talent he undoubtedly possesses, he has done little in a Springbok jersey and hasn’t played a Test since last November. He only completed half the SuperRugby season and at the end of June he had his third neck operation in four years.
Meyer hopefully knows something we don’t when it comes to Coenie, otherwise his selection is utterly insane. What’s more, it sends an incredibly negative message to Vincent Koch, Marcel van der Merwe and Steven Kitshoff, three up-and-coming props.
And the argument that Oosthuizen is in the squad because he can play on both sides of the scrum doesn’t hold water when you consider the problems he has had at tighthead and the fact that Trevor Nyakane is more than capable of switching between loosehead and tighthead as well.
The World Cup squad selection just highlighted more inconsistency from Meyer as he is willing to gamble on the 50/50 (at best) fitness of players like Oosthuizen, but not on Marcell Coetzee, the outstanding Springbok loose forward in the Rugby Championship this year.
The recall of players like Zane Kirchner and Morne Steyn also disappoints me because it signals the intention of Meyer to return to the same brand of rugby the Springboks played in 2012/13. The backline does need some attacking spark, which is why Jesse Kriel and Willie le Roux would be in my first-choice starting XV. I did not agree with the rave reviews Kirchner received after the Buenos Aires game – he was solid but he really offers nothing extra in attack.
Kriel, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen can all play fullback should something happen to Le Roux. Incidentally, I would also have chosen Lionel Mapoe ahead of Pietersen to bolster the midfield stocks, with the 29-year-old veteran battling to regain the form of old that made him an integral part of the 2007 and 2011 World Cup teams.
The selection of Kirchner has wasted the extra place Meyer was gifted by only choosing five props, instead of the six he thought he had to at the start of the international season. The demands of World Cup rugby surely compel one to choose more forwards and the coach could have had both Siya Kolisi and Coetzee in his squad, but instead the backs received an extra player who I really don’t believe is going to provide the brilliance that wins you the World Cup.
The selection of Steyn and Brits is another slap in the face of transformation because it ignores the outstanding Super Rugby form of Elton Jantjies and Scarra Ntubeni.
My World Cup squad – Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers, Lionel Mapoe, Bryan Habana, Pat Lambie, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Hougaard, Duane Vermeulen, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi, Victor Matfield, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Marcel van der Merwe, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Scarra Ntubeni, Trevor Nyakane, Tendai Mtawarira.