Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Whilst Bloemfontein was somewhat of a gamble by the Springbok management, I won't go as far as some journalists to call this a Springbok 'B' side. This was arguably a side combining the form players who played in a number of top tier competitions' finals in recent weeks and an opportunity to test our depth a little bit. Yes it was great from the perspective of casting the net wider and exposing players to test rugby, but how much did we really learn?
In total there were 6 players on debut, getting their first taste of international rugby. There were two players in Marcell Coetzee and Andre Esterhuizen who returned to the Bok set up after long absences and then a mix and match of experience and youth on the bench. 14 of the starting 15 did not play any role at Loftus the week prior with only 3 players on the bench having taken part. It was always going to be a challenge to get the team into the groove and running smoothly.
It is not often that so many inexperienced and fringe players take to the field together. Most sides prefer to blood youngsters alongside a wealth of experience, to help them settle into the game. This was done at Loftus with the likes of Moerat and Louw getting their debuts. It is a vastly different experience and challenge to make your debut alongside other inexperienced players and to have to collectively step up. I think it is quite difficult to judge these players and their collective performance in light of the vast lack of experience across the park.
Yes you can say Evan Roos carried well and got through a lot of work with ball in hand or that Marcell Coetzee was a nuisance in the breakdown. Kurt-Lee Arendse stood up and made his tackles, or Marvin Orie was solid in the line-outs. These are things we knew already, they are the base skills for which these players were brought into the squad. What you can't say however is how well these players would perform in a more balanced side.
Kurt-Lee Arendse may have scored a try and devastated out wide had he been in a back division featuring Le Roux and Mapimpi. Esterhuizen may have been his bulldozing self had he lined up between Pollard and Am and had Cheslin out wide. Many things would have gone differently for a number of players had the side been balanced better. It would have given far more information about these players than that which we got on Saturday.
In last weeks podcast I had said that I would definitely have kept Lukhanyo Am in the starting XV, he would have added some much needed composure out wide. Fassi and Arendse would have benefited heavily from this and I dare to say that the backline would have been far more potent both on defense and attack. It should have been more of a balancing act so that we could accurately gauge where these players are at, at the moment.
I hope this wasn't the last chance for some of these guys as it would be an injustice to them to be given a shot in those circumstances. I doubt many of them will make the cut when the team is announced later today, with PSDT, Eben, Handre and maybe Roos or Coetzee probably being the only survivors for the final in Cape Town.