Boks to spice up Currie Cup?
Mon, 08 Oct 2012 14:59
The Lions showed last year that a settled team has an advantage over a collection of star players
The unexpected return of the Springboks will add another dimension to an intriguing final round of fixtures in the Currie Cup this weekend.
Although the original plan was that the Bok training squad would not be made available for the conclusion of the Currie Cup, that decision has since been reversed which throws up a number of interesting questions.
First of all there is the impact that the returning stars will have on their provincial teams, which have got to this point in the season without them.
Last year the Lions made a big statement by beating Bok-laden Western Province and Sharks teams on consecutive weekends to claim the title, which should serve as a caution to any coach weighing up the potential costs and benefits of including all of their Boks in the starting line-up this weekend.
The Lions showed that a settled team has an advantage over a collection of star players, so on top of being quite harsh on the players who have worked hard all season there is the threat that returning Springboks could become something of a disruptive influence.
Then there is the fact that each individual has had a different workload and must be considered according to the value they can add for their province.
Each team has obviously got different needs as they enter the final round of fixtures before the play-offs, so the depth in resources in each position could well determine whether some weary Boks are called on to front up for their provinces.
Some Boks have had just about zero game-time since Super Rugby and will be desperate for a start, whilst others have played flat-out every week in the Rugby Championship and might be better off providing an impact from the bench.
A final point is the mental attitude of the players, last year the Boks were desperate to erase the disappointment of the World Cup but lacked the focus of the tight-knit Lions, and with a year-end tour of Europe coming up some might be looking forward to some rest.
With that in mind we decided to take a brief look at each player in the Bok squad and speculate on their possible role in the Currie Cup action this weekend.
Tendai Mtawarira: The Beast started every Test in the Rugby Championship, but his value at scrum-time and around the park will be immense for the Sharks who should waste no time in giving him the No.1 jersey back ahead of the erratic Dale Chadwick.
CJ van der Linde: After spending two weeks with the Boks Van der Linde did not even make it onto the bench, but he is likely to find himself there this weekend as it is tough to see either JC Janse van Rensburg or Jacobie Adriaanse getting dropped.
Pat Cilliers: Another player who could well find himself reserved to an impact role, although Jacobie Adriaanse's troublesome groin injury could see him start at tighthead.
Coenie Oosthuizen: After getting the all-clear on his neck injury it is tough to see anything keeping him out of the Cheetahs side this weekend in what will be a do-or-die match for his side.
Jannie du Plessis: Another tough decision for John Plumtree as the good Doctor has hardly had a chance to catch his breath this year. It ultimately depends how much faith Plumtree has in young tighthead Wiehahn Herbst, but hopefully sense will prevail and Du Plessis will get a breather.
Adriaan Strauss: The Cheetahs' position on the log means that they simply cannot afford to leave out a player of his class and leadership ability in their crunch match at Newlands on Saturday.
Craig Burden: After holding tackle bags for a while he will be relishing the chance to get some game-time, and with Pieter Dixon out of action with a broken hand he should slot straight back into the Sharks' starting side.
Tiaan Liebenberg: He will certainly be keen given his limited opportunities for the Boks, but with Siyabonga Ntubeni having impressed this season and Deon Fourie wearing the captain's armband he might be used in an impact role yet again.
Eben Etzebeth: Poised to make his Currie Cup debut after a break-out season to remember, he will be relatively fresh after his recent one-week suspension and should replace Don Armand in the WP second row.
Flip van der Merwe: Having played a bit-part role for the Boks he is not likely to miss out with the Blue Bulls' season on the line against the Lions.
Andries Bekker: With his ongoing injury concerns it might be a good opportunity to give him some time off for rest and recovery, although it will be a big temptation for Allister Coetzee to use him against the Cheetahs.
Juandré Kruger: He will feel that he has something to prove before the year-end tour after seeing his starting position handed to Bekker, and is sure to use the match against the Lions to make his point.
Marcell Coetzee: After sitting on the bench for the last few weeks he should be raring to go, and should be unleashed to take his frustrations out on the Griquas.
Willem Alberts: He has come through a hard season, and with all of the loose forward options available to John Plumtree he should be given the chance to put his feet up, but there is always the chance that Plumtree could move him to lock again.
Jacques Potgieter: The last time he was on a rugby pitch was in a Blue Bulls jersey and having overcome his injuury niggle he is likely to be seen hurling himself at the Lions' pack this weekend.
Arno Botha: He was in great form before being called up as injury cover last week and should slot straight back into the team, as he has been one of the Blue Bulls' best players this season.
Duane Vermeulen: Given the loose forward woes that Allister Coetzee has had to endure he should be thrust straight into the action, especially as he has only recently returned from long-term injury.
Francois Hougaard: After playing on the wing for the last few weeks, this should be a good opportunity to get some game-time in his preferred position of scrumhalf.
Johan Goosen: After suffering a painful knee injury against the All Blacks he will be out of the mix for the Cheetahs who will have to put their faith in Sias Ebersohn.
Morné Steyn: The Bok management have hinted that they want him to regain his confidence in the Currie Cup, and it certainly will be a stern test of his ability to bounce back as he is set to face Elton Jantjies.
Elton Jantjies: His return will be far from disruptive for the Lions as he only parted ways with them two weeks ago. His duel with Steyn will be highly significant, not only for the Currie Cup but also in terms of their future with the Boks.
Jean de Villiers: The Bok skipper has had a taxing year, and with a hamstring niggle to deal with it might be a better decision for WP to stick with Marcel Brache and give De Villiers a ticket to watch from the grandstand at Newlands.
Lionel Mapoe: He has been one of the form centres in the Currie Cup this season and should slot back into the Lions' starting line-up without any fuss.
Juan de Jongh: He is in desperate need of some game-time and Coetzee is not likely to hesitate in giving him an opportunity to start at outside centre at the expense of JP du Plessis.
Jaco Taute: Although he has played most of his rugby at fullback and outside centre it is tough to see him replacing either Andries Coetzee or Lionel Mapoe who have been in excellent form this season so his best bet is inside centre, unless he is used as an impact player, but that would be a big call for such a talented player.
Bryan Habana: Given that he was in a moonboot a few weeks ago you would hope that he is rested, but his devastating form will provide another big temptation for Coetzee .
Lwazi Mvovo: He is another player in desperate need of some game-time, but with JP Pietersen back in action and Odwa Ndungane in good form he could still miss out. Our bet is that Ndungane will be benched to give Mvovo a chance to stretch his legs against Griquas.
Zane Kirchner: A tough decision for Pine Pienaar as Jurgen Visser has been playing well, but with the season on the line expect Kirchner to run out against the Lions.
Pat Lambie: With Louis Ludik and Riaan Viljoen as fullback options Lambie is likely to find himself at flyhalf this weekend, which is where John Plumtree sees his future at the Sharks so his performance will be watched with interest given his limited opportunities for the Boks.
By Michael de Vries
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