Peter de Villiers’ big gamble will be finally tested this weekend. Upon being selected as Bok coach four years ago, Peter adopted a pretty bold strategy. Go and find all the old timers who won the World Cup, convince them to play for you, and pretty much ride the coat tails of Jake White’s 2007 team for as long as humanly possible.
This is the Bok team PdV announced and you can see the marks of Jake White all over it.
15. Pat Lambie, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Jaque Fourie, 12. Jean de Villiers, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Fourie du Preez, 8. Pierre Spies, 7. Schalk Burger, 6. Heinrich Brüssow, 5. Victor Matfield, 4. Danie Rossouw, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. John Smit (c), 1. Gurthrö Steenkamp.
This is exactly the team Jake White had going into the World Cup final in 2007 with only enforced changes for injuries and retirements. At 15 Percy Montgomery is now retired, enter Pat Lambie. At 12 Jean de Villiers was unavailable in the World Cup final due to injury, but was in fact Jake’s first choice centre at the start of the World Cup. At 8 Spies was in fact Jake’s first choice, but was also unavailable due to injury in the final. In fact, all of the other changes to the team that ran on in the final follow the same pattern, with one exception. PdV has switched Butch James for the kicking machine autobot 3000 nicknamed Morne Steyn.
Pretty genius. I could have come up with same strategy after 6 pints at Rafiki’s with Silas Voon. The only actual change is a conservative one – get the Braam Van Straaten of our day to bang over the kicks from anywhere inside our own half.
Well, PdV, your pub strategy comes to a head this weekend. If you lose to the Wallabies – the jig is up. You will go down in the annals of Bok coaching history with the palookas and clowns of the early 2000s. With the Harry Viljoens and Rudolf Straeuli’s. But if your strategy pays off… and this team squeaks into the semis, you’ll have qualified as a somewhat passable coach who earned themselves a Mallet-like decent return.
For the Wallabies on the other side of the equation, Robbie Deans, a proven coach and a damn good one at that has had a an absolutely miserable time coaching the Wallabies and has one of the lowest win-ratios of a Wallaby coach in recent times. But something changed this year for Deans – namely young talent. Brand o’Connor, Will Genia and Digby Ioane have all shone as bright talents and even Pocock has emerged as a world-class scavenger. Dean has got a talented squad, but there are massive egos in that squad and they don’t look like the closest knit bunch. That’s tough for any coach to manage. They’ve got talent, but there is also that uncomfortable matter of someone not yet having the courage to tell Kurtley Beale to his face that his moustache is quite unseemly and that his ‘tache distracts from team morale as a whole.
Geez… it’s too close too call. An ageing, one last rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light squad versus an insane-young-laptop-stealing-talented-but-shaky squad. 50/50. I can’t call it.