A team of 30, backed by a team of millions

A team of 30, backed by a team of millions

Receiving their tight fitting test caps to the melodic tune of the “World in Union”, the 30 warriors tasked with defending the zenith of International Rugby were unveiled to the nation. STYLI CHARALAMBOUS reviews the Boks announcement of the RWC squad.

The Springboks were the last of the big test playing nations to announce their squad of rugby tourists that would be defending their crown in New Zealand in a little over two weeks time. As expected, there were no major surprises in the team announcement with only one or two selections raising eyebrows. But then again, what Springbok team in history hasn’t?

SARU president Oregan Hoskins stood beside diminutive coach Peter de Villiers as players were introduced one-by-one on live television. With Saturday’s win over the old enemy, the All Blacks, having galvanised the nation into universal support for this team, goose bumps would have been felt all over South Africa as each soldier ceremoniously accepted their cap from Hoskins.

Saturday’s victorious performance by the Boks resolved most of the selection question marks in the few positions that were yet to be decided. So the selectors had very little room to provide for shock and awe with wildcard picks. Francois Louw and Odwa Ndungane were the two most notable choices that would have some fans scratching their heads, but on the whole, most arm chair coaches would agree this team of 30 is the about the best injury-free players South Africa has to offer.

Exciting youngster, Pat Lambie was rewarded for a great Super Rugby season and test match against New Zealand with a ticket to the RWC, and should injury befall one of the starting Steyns, de Villiers may look to the Sharks protégé to fill some very big boots.

The squad is heaving with experienced and players who have done it all before. More than 50% of this squad have RWC winner’s medals adorning their trophy cabinets, one of the many notable records this team will carry into the tournament.  It’s not inconceivable that the 12 players who started the 2007 final could do so again for South Africa, should they progress that far. With the blend of youthful and talented newcomers, this squad has a balanced look about them, which we would have envied going into the French edition of the tournament.

Injuries and recent form will mean that South Africa’s starting team pick themselves. With Smit being confirmed as World Cup captain, only injury will prevent the stalwart from starting in the important group encounters and the playoffs. But don’t underestimate the role injuries and squad depth will have in determining the outcome of a tournament such as this. Both du Plessis brothers attended the last World Cup due to illness or injury of other squad members, and yet both played huge roles in South Africa being able to lift that enthralling little trophy. Its not 15 players that win you a world cup, but the entire squad of 30. And given the line-up of physical Polynesians the Boks are set to face early on, de Villiers and co. will know this better than most.

There isn’t much one can say about this squad that hasn’t already been said before. RWC Cup, Lions tour and Tri-Nations winners, these players have been there and done that. Now let’s get behind the team, keep our rhetoric and cynicism about the coaching to ourselves and focus our energies on supporting 30 men, and the multitude of support staff, who will hopefully bring us World Cup euphoria yet again.

Backs: Francois Steyn, Gio Aplon, Patrick Lambie, Bryan Habana, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Butch James, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Ruan Pienaar.

Forwards: Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Bakkies Botha,Victor Matfield, Johann Muller, Danie Rossouw, Jannie Du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Bismarck du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle, John Smit (captain), Tendai Mtawarira, Guthro Steenkamp. DM



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