rugby365.com's Jan de Koning takes a look at Peter de Villiers's selections for Thursday's World Cup Pool D match against Namibia. Has the Bok coach erred by not giving a few more fringe players an opportunity?
Peter de Villiers, be that through his team selections or his public utterances, will always evoke an assortment of diverse opinions.
And his team announcement, to face Namibia in a World Cup Pool D match in Albany on Thursday, is certain to again elicit contrasting views.
There will be those who agree with the Springbok mentor that "building momentum" is the way to go in the World Cup and fielding the bulk of his victorious first-choice team is tactically astute.
They will back their opinions with references the near-catastrophic 'B Team' selection of Jake White in 2007, when the then Bok coach was forced to send a host of reinforcements onto the field to salvage the pool match against Tonga in France.
SMIT TO START THIRD MATCH IN A ROW
The converse argument is that even the Boks' second best should be good enough to account for their Southern African neighbours and that more second stringers or fringe players needed to be given a run against a team regarded as no more than a walking bonus point.
So, the big question is: Did De Villiers miss a trick here?
Let us start with captain and hooker John Smit, the most contentious of all the coach's selections.
There is the school of thought that Bismarck du Plessis should start ahead of the record-breaking Bok skipper in the No.2 jersey. (Not just against Namibia... but in the bigger games too!)
You could, however, also ask if Chiliboy Ralepelle did not perhaps deserve a starting role, having carried tackle bags for the last month or so? Maybe, he could even have given Ralepelle another chance to lead his country and appease the political vultures that always circle the team.
What is clear here is that the coach feels that Smit needs the game time and must be on the field. Again.
WHAT ABOUT JUAN DE JONGH FOR A START?
This is in stark contrast with the decision to rest scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who is clearly struggling with form and could do with an opportunity to sharpen up his normally pristine game.
Francois Hougaard has made an enormous impact in his two World Cup appearances on the wing and perhaps should have started there. But, De Villiers clearly felt that a fit-again Bryan Habana needed the game time instead... along with youngster Pat Lambie who, reportedly, was an injury doubt but will again start at fullback with Gio Aplon getting a run in the No.14 jersey.
Juan de Jongh is another player who could have done with a starting spot. Resting regular outside centre Jaque Fourie would not have been a bad idea - especially given how central he is to the Bok gameplan; on attack and defence.
Injuries to locks Victor Matfield and Johann Muller, centre Jean de Villiers and flyhalf Butch James have obviously also influenced his selection, but players like De Villiers and James will continue to lose ground to the Steyns - Frans and Morné, respectively - the longer they remain inactive.
BURGER AN OPTION AT NO.8?
But there is an argument to be made for Schalk Burger to start at No.8, to open a spot on the flank for Francois Louw to start - although De Villiers's views on Pierre Spies's value are well documented.
Those are a few alternatives put forward.
The question is, will they weaken the team... and if so, will it be significant enough for Namibia to become a real threat?
* What do you think? Leave your comment below!
By Jan de Koning
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