NICK MALLETT picked his Springbok World Cup squad on SuperSport rugby show The Selectors.
‘I have a feeling they will go with six props. Therefore I’ll select Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane and Steven Kitshoff as the loosehead props, with Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe and Coenie Oosthuizen as the tightheads.
‘The World Cup will be held in the northern hemisphere, where scrum penalties can either win or cost you a game, so you have to take your best scrummaging hookers, which are Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss and Scarra Ntubeni. Obviously Schalk Brits has got an inside run, but I’d definitely take Scarra, who has been outstanding this season and he’s a young guy who is going to be involved in 2019 as well.’
‘In the second row, Victor Matfield will definitely go to the World Cup. There’s a special sort of mutual respect between Victor and Heyneke Meyer. The fact that Victor came back to play and performed well at No 5 also counts in his favour. He didn’t come out of retirement not to go to the World Cup. Whether he should be in a starting role or not is another question. You want him there for his lineout expertise which he can pass onto Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit, the other three locks in my squad. If there is an injury to either one of those four, I’d recall Andries Bekker.’
‘Our starting back row should be Duane Vermeulen at No 8, Willem Alberts at blindside flank and Francois Louw, who will travel to England ahead of Marcell Coetzee, at openside. Schalk Burger is the next guy I’d pick as he covers all three loose forward positions off the bench. For the fifth vacant spot, I’m torn between Siya Kolisi, who is fetching and ball carrying option and Oupa Mahoje who is a better lineout jumper. It’s a toss up between those two. The style of rugby is also important. If you’re going to play Lions rugby, Jaco Kriel suddenly becomes open for selection. But we need to play tighter, northern hemisphere, World Cup-winning rugby, and you need big collisions, defenders and lineout forwards to do that job.
‘Fourie du Preez will be the starting scrumhalf, without a doubt. As his back-ups, I’d pick Cobus Reinach, with Faf de Klerk as my wildcard selection. Speed of service to the flyhalves in Europe will be important and Ruan Pienaar is just too slow.
‘Handré Pollard, Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjies will be the flyhalves. Both Pollard and Jantjies, who was our best flyhalf in Super Rugby, can play 12 as well, and Lambie can cover fullback.
‘Being forced to picked six props, we have to cut down the backs. Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende and Jan Serfontein are the centres. Jean is an outstanding captain, Damian is the in-form midfielder, and Jan scored a lot of tries prior to his knee injury. I’d pick those three knowing Pollard and Jantjies can move across to inside centre if need be. If they were to go with four centres, I’d have gone with Lionel Mapoe, but we’re battling with numbers.
‘Bryan Habana picks himself. He and JP Pietersen bring tremendous experience and should only play as wings where they made their reputations. Lwazi Mvovo will be my third wing. I wouldn’t go with Cornal Hendricks, I think he has been exposed defensively and he is a bit shaky under the high ball and you’re going to get a lot of that in Europe.’
‘Willie le Roux should travel to the tournament as the only specialist fullback. And that’s the advantage of having a Pat Lambie in your squad. He can be Willie’s back-up.’
‘If Jean is not fit, I’d either make Vermeulen, Du Preez or Louw captain. Duane led the Stormers with aplomb, Fourie du Preez is certainty to start, and Francois also has great leadership potential. Schalk would have been an option, but the captain has to start and if Heyneke picks Alberts as the ball-carrying blindside flanker, Schalk will play off the bench. Vermuelen was in the top five best players in the world last year and has the respect of the opposition and officials as do the other two I mentioned.’
Nick Mallett’s Springbok World Cup squad:
Forwards – Beast Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Steven Kitshoff, Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Scarra Ntubeni, Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi/Oupa Mohoje.
Backs – Fourie du Preez, Cobus Reinach, Faf de Klerk, Handré Pollard, Pat Lambie, Elton Jantjies, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo, Willie