Welcome back Schalk Burger
One of the highlights in Super 14 rugby this past weekend was the welcome return to form of the big Springbok flank, Schalk Burger.
Time and time again opposition players were hit back in defense during the Stormers vs Highlanders game and many of these tackles were made by Schalkie, without any help from his team mates.
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It was Burger at his best defensively and it certainly contributed to the Stormers upset victory. Andries Bekker made his presence felt and added the grunt to the Stormers pack, that has sadly been missing this Super 14 season.
So who is now in contention for a place in the Bok team? Well since the days of Jake White, consistency has been part of the winning formula and Pieter De Villiers has wisely continued along that path.
Lets look at the last Springbok team that played. It was on 22 November 2008, in that crushing victory over England (something we shouldn’t let the British lions forget either).
Jean de Villiers
Jannie du Plessis
Who will make the 2009 Sprinbok XV?
Conrad Jantjes has not been in great form this season; admittedly he is part of a losing Stormers set up that is more set on defense than attack.
However, it is time to settle Francois Steyn in the team and with the abundance of centers in South Africa; Steyn is moved to the number 15 jersey for evermore.
JP Pietersen has been a try magnet again this season and takes his rightful place in the team.
Jongi Nokwe knows how to score tries. The Free State flyer is no stranger to the try line and has scored some fine tries during the Super 14.
The man wearing the number 11 jersey is Brian Habana who is also hitting form again and cannot be left out of the Bok XV.
Habana retains his place with Nokwe on standby.
Jacques Fourie has been devastating for the Lions but has been injury prone. AD Jacobs was had a solid season but has not been helped by an indecisive Sharks backline with Francois Steyn at flyhalf.
It is always good to have a combination in midfield and with that in mind I am going for Fourie for the number 13 jersey.
Jean De Villiers made the number 12 jumber his last season but has also battled to strike form in 2009. Wynand Olivier from the Bulls has been in great form and with the idea of hitting the Lions hard in midfield to open up the space for our wingers, a new combination will be given a chance. Wyand Olivier and Jacques Fourie will be the new center pair.
Ruan Pienaar is coming back from injury and is Pieter De Villiers’ first choice for the flyhalf position. He will also be the goal kicker in the team. Should he still be injured, Morne Steyn from the Bulls will start.
Fourie Du Preez remains world class and will regain his place in the starting line up. Ricky Januarie has had an indifferent Super 14 and will lose his place, with Rory Kockett making the bench.
Loose Head Prop
The Beast is becoming a folk hero from the battlefields of Dunedin to the hard playing fields of Kimberly. He has still not hit his peak yet and is still developing as a prop. He will maintain his place. Guthro Steenkamp and Heinko Van Der Merwe have also played well this season.
John Smit will start in the number 2 jersey and will captain the team. Bismarck Du Plessis has been inaccurate in the line outs and needs to work on his discipline. Chilliboy Ralapella is also in the mix and will make the bench should Du Plessis be injured.
Tight Head Prop
This position is a bit of a problem in SA rugby at present. Jannie Du Plessis will start and probably be replaced by John Smit at the 50 minute mark.
I don’t think there will be any arguments from the armchair critics about who should play lock for the Boks. The old firm of Botha and Matfield will be critical to South Africa winning the series, with Botha adding the mongrel to the pack.
Andries Bekker will be the third choice lock.
Open Side Flank
Schalk Burger is starting to look like the Schalk of old and may do enough to make the starting line up. Heinrich Brussouw has been in outstanding form for the Cheetahs and could even make the team ahead of Schalk on present form.
Blind Side Flank
Juan Smith has got guts and plenty of it too. Playing in a losing team is not easy but the big Free State flank is always in the thick of things. He will be pushed by Duane Vermeulen but regains his number 7 jersey.
Who to leave out is the difficult question for the South African selectors. Pierre Spies will retain the jersey, with Ryan Kankowski and Luke Watson breathing down his neck.
The Springbok team to face the British Lions looks like this:
15: Francois Steyn
14: JP Pietersen
13: Jacques Fourie
12: Wynand Olivier
11: Brian Habana
10: Ruan Pienaar
9: Fourie Du Preez
8: Pierre Spies
7: Juan Smith
6: Schalk Burger
5: Victor Matfield
4: Bakkies Botha
3: Jannie Du Plessis
2: John Smit
1: Beast Mtawarira
Jean De Villiers
Bismarck Du Plessis