Like it or not, Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber took a gamble when naming his side to face the All Blacks at Ellis Park. We know the result was a resounding 35 - 23 victory for the Kiwi's as they made a statement of their own whilst experimenting with a very inexperienced front row. Had it paid off, JN would be looking at the test against Australia with different lenses to what he does now, the pressure is right back on.
It was a surprise last week when the Bok team was announced to see that Malcolm Marx's man of the match performance in Mbombela had not earned him a starting spot again. One could fairly easily reason it though to the familiar Bok selection tactics and there can be absolutely no complaints about Bongi in the starting XV either. If that was a surprise then I was even more shocked when Bongi was withdrawn from the starting team as a 'precautionary' measure and replaced with Dweba. Logically one would have thought that Marx would move from the bench and Dweba would take up the spot on the woodwork.
Maybe it was one brandy too many with the coaches after hours or simply ignoring the enormity of the occasion, but Dweba never should have started that test, the occasion was simply too big for him. Now before everyone sounds the alarm, I am talking about starting him, not playing him in general. Dweba last saw action for his club side (Bordeaux) in early May, almost 3 months ago so he can hardly be considered match fit. Yes he is in training with the Boks and the intensity there is great, but there is no substitute for match fitness.
Malcolm Marx should have started that test, softening up the opposition for Dweba to come on later and finish the job. When we compare our hookers we must do so within context, Bongi and Malcolm are vastly experienced having both earned their 50th test caps this year. Dweba earned only 3rd cap this weekend and in the worst way possible. Being substituted in the 29th minute, regardless of the 'rugby' reasons as proffered by the head coach post game is simply not good enough. To have thrown Dweba to the wolves like that and then not to back him to close out the half was a serious injustice to the player and his confidence.
There is always a rugby reason why it is done, but it remains private,
Another who should not have taken to the field on the day is Duane. Vermeulen is a Springbok colossus and an integral member of the team, but a crucial test like Saturday's is not the place to be finding form. Having not played rugby in months and undergoing surgery, Thor was never going to be at his best for this fixture. How do you then justify his selection over Jasper Wiese who performed spectacularly just a week before.
“We wanted a few players – Ox [Nche], Duane and Joseph – to get a run. They are players we will definitely use in the future. It was a nice opportunity for us to give them a little bit of a run. They will get better.”
These selections should have come from the bench for both Duane and Dweba if at all for this test. Phasing these players in would have definitely been a better option against the Aussies in two weeks time. Instead the coaching staff disrespected both the occasion and the 63 000 paying fans by not fielding our strongest team for our biggest test at home of the entire season. It matters not how many players we have on the bench that can fulfill that role. This is test rugby and you have got to earn the right to be there.
“The moment we see a drop in that, because we have six forwards on the bench, we will do the substitution. I think that’s where we differ from other teams. We do things a little bit differently.
This is not the first time the Springbok coaches have thrown a player to the wolves, the same happened to Elton Jantjies at Loftus. If players are not fit and not in form, they have no place in the match day 23. With the current selection trend, we may just see Johan Goosen thrown in to the starting line up before he has even worn a Bulls jersey in 2022.