The Springboks are gearing up to face Ireland, England, Italy and Wales. Craig Ray analyses the squad, and tells us what else is going on in South African rugby...
Springboks bulk up for tour
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer sprung several surprises when naming a cumbersome 36-man squad for their autumn tour to Ireland, Britain and Italy. The squad only included four locks but seven loose forwards and four fly-halves.
One of the biggest eyebrow-raisers was the inclusion of Racing Metro fly-half Johan Goosen as a full-back in the group. Goosen, 22, admitted that he thought his Test career was over when he chose to move to Paris after an injury plagued two seasons in South Africa.
The Golden Lions front row duo of tighthead Julian Redelinghuys and hooker Robbie Coetzee were also rewarded for their consistent form during the Currie Cup, but neither is likely to feature until later in the tour.
Meyer also went for the searing pace of Western Province wing Seabelo Senatla, who is a star on the HSBC World Sevens circuit and one of the quickest men in world rugby. As an 18-year-old Senatla clocked 10.6 for the 100-metres without any targeted athletic training.
The tour has been broken in half with the first two Tests against Ireland and England seen as priorities both in terms of performance and results.
Ireland, the current Six Nations champions, and England as 2015 Rugby World Cup hosts are obvious targets and a full strength South Africa will take the field in those encounters.
Italy in Padova will allow Meyer to tinker with his lineup while the Welsh Test on 29 November falls outside the International Rugby Board’s prescribed Test window.
Bryan Habana, Bakkies Botha, Gurthro Steenkamp, Schalk Burger, JP Pietersen, Goosen, Jano Vermaak (who replaced Ruan Pienaar three days into the tour) and Morné Steyn won’t be eligible for that match.
Western Province claim 33rd Currie Cup title
Western Province claimed their second Currie Cup title in three seasons with a gritty 19-16 win over the Golden Lions at Newlands in October.
Although the tournament has lost some of its gloss over the past two decades with the emergence of Super Rugby as the priority competition, it still holds a dear place in South African hearts.
With 20 contracted Springboks withdrawn from the latter stages of the tournament to enable them to prepare for the Springboks’ tour, it allowed for even more young talents to emerge.
Players such as WP fullback Cheslin Kolbe, Blue Bulls centre Burger Odendaal, and the Golden Lions trio of flank Jaco Kriel, hooker Armand van der Merwe and utility back Jaco van der Walt were just some of the standout performers.
This year’s tournament saw a return to an eight-team premier division – up from six over the previous season – but from the outset WP, the Lions and the Sharks set the pace with the unfashionable Mpumalanga Pumas causing some upsets.
The Pumas sat second on the standings at the halfway stage, but lost four of their five second round games to miss out on a semi-final berth. The Bulls recovered from losing four of their first five games to reach the semi-finals.
Linee loses his final battle
Former Western Province and Springbok centre Tinus Linee died after complications of Motor Neuron Disease (MND) at his Paarl home on November 2.
Despite his diminutive frame the 45-year-old was a renowned tackler who felled many bigger opponents through a combination of good technique, great courage and a dose of recklessness.
Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher, who toured Britain alongside Linee as part of the SA ‘A’ team in 1996, summed it up perfectly.
“We all knew that when you were lined up against Tinus, the No 12 channel was a no-go zone.”
Linee played 112 times for WP and won three Currie Cup titles. He also played nine tour matches for the Springboks, although he never earned a Test cap.
Former Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen is also inflicted by the incurable degenerative disease and has committed his remaining days to raising funds for research through his J9 Foundation.
Joost is still putting a smile on our faces – check out this video…