RUDY Paige and Zane Kirchner were the biggest selection surprises when the 31-man Springbok Rugby World Cup squad was announced on Friday.
The scrumhalf and the fullback have not been in Heyneke Meyer’s plans but with the transformation cloud hanging menacingly over the Springboks‚ they could be termed as quota selections.
Paige was one of the better scrumhalves during the Bulls’ underwhelming Super Rugby campaign while Kirchner‚ who started for the Springboks in their previous test match against Argentina in Buenos Aires‚ seems to have improved his attacking game while in Ireland with Leinster.
There were casualties with Sharks players Marcell Coetzee and Cobus Reinach missing the selection boat. Cornal Hendricks was also a surprise omission even though he faced stiff competition at wing.
Coetzee has been struggling with a medial knee ligament injury sustained during the loss against Argentina in Durban and was in a desperate bid to get fit in time for the tournament. Reinach has been the preferred third choice scrumhalf in Fourie du Preez’s injury enforced absence and he could consider himself to be very unlucky.
He was spotted at the Sharks’ training session yesterday‚ which gave the game away about his World Cup dream being dashed.
Despite concerns around his fitness‚ Du Preez has been added to the squad and should be the first-choice scrumhalf if his fitness permits.
He has often saved his best rugby for Northern Hemisphere conditions‚ but with his advancing age‚ this should be his last World Cup. Ruan Pienaar joins him as his perennial deputy.
The same can be said for Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers‚ who form the core of the Springboks’ leadership group.
De Villiers has not quite recovered from the broken jaw sustained against Argentina on August 8 and could miss the start of the Boks’ campaign against Japan in Brighton on September 19.
As expected‚ Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel have made the cut as centres and should be showing their wares before De Villiers muscles in to break the burgeoning partnership.
Vincent Koch‚ Marcel van der Merwe and Steven Kitshoff also missed the cut as Meyer has gone for a five prop split.
Coenie Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane forced their way in through their versatility with Jannie du Plessis‚ Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira and Frans Malherbe being the other automatic front-row picks.
Meyer has also gone for three hookers in Bismarck du Plessis‚ Adriaan Strauss and Schalk Brits.
Brits has not played much rugby for his English club Saracens but his experience was always going to see him get the World Cup ticket ahead of Scarra Ntubeni.
Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth pick themselves as the locks alongside Matfield while Pieter-Steph du Toit also makes the cut despite a lack of rugby in 2015 due to a knee injury.
There are no surprises in the loose-forward department with Duane Vermeulen‚ Schalk Burger‚ Willem Alberts‚ Siya Kolisi and Francios Louw all stitching in their places.
Heinrich Brussow could consider himself to be unlucky despite his pilfering prowess but he lacks the requisite line-out height the other loose-forwards possess. Du Toit’s versatility as a blindside flank also counted against Brussow.
The flyhalf berths was the most predictable position with Morne Steyn‚ Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard selecting themselves while JP Pietersen‚ Lwazi Mvovo and Bryan Habana being the preferred wings. Willie le Roux slots in as the first-choice fullback.
Full squad: Fullbacks: Willie le Roux‚ Zane Kirchner
Wings: Bryan Habana‚ JP Pietersen‚ Lwazi Mvovo
Centres: Jean de Villiers (capt)‚ Damian de Allende‚ Jesse Kriel.
Flyhalves: Pat Lambie‚ Handre Pollard‚ Morne Steyn
Scrumhalves: Fourie du Preez‚ Ruan Pienaar‚ Rudy Paige
Loose forwards: Duane Vermeulen‚ Francois Louw‚ Willem Alberts‚ Schalk Burger‚ Siya Kolisi
Locks: Victor Matfield‚ Eben Etzebeth‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Lood de Jager
Hookers: Bismarck du Plessis‚ Adriaan Strauss‚ Schalk Britz
Props: Tendai Mtawarira‚ Trevor Nyakane‚ Jannie du Plessis‚ Frans Malherbe‚ Coenie Oosthuizen.
by Khanyiso Tshwaku BDLive. RDM News Services