I wrote an e-mail to SA Rugby magazine, just to air my optimism for the current Springbok team. I feel South African rugby pundits and fans have a bit unfair on Heyneke Meyer and his young Boks. I believe they are just a few pillars away from being world-beaters.
From: Litha Mpondwana
To: SA Rugby mag
Subject: Springboks are set for a special era
It might seem paradoxical after an indifferent start to their Rugby Championship campaign, but I do believe the Springboks under Heyneke Meyer are going to be a very special team.
I am not surprised at the backlash Meyer and the Boks have received so far, as it is the nature of South African sports. Fans and media alike are impatient with the performance of South African national teams. To be fair though, certain aspects on how the Boks play have been frustrating, but to Meyer's credit, he has reacted accordingly. An example of this are the changes he made to the Bok team for their Rugby Championship match against Australia at Loftus.
I would like to believe injuries to key players and an inexperienced core team have affected player selections and the stagnant way the Boks have played. The return of injured world class players should change the balance of the team for the better. The young Boks will gain more experience this year, and they should return as battle hardened internationals in the next year.
I am particularly excited at the prospect of the young players that have been selected to play for the Boks this season. Eben Etzebeth has imposed himself well against the most physical packs in world rugby. I would like to believe that the reason Pat Lambie has been stuck on the bench for the Boks has been due to the absence of JP Pietersen in the team. Lambie has the makings to be an excellent fullback. I do not buy into the notion that he lacks the pace to cut it in the position.
Francois Hougaard should be given another go at scrumhalf. I think he will be more liberated when playing with a multi-dimesional flyhalf such as Johan Goosen or Elton Jantjies. These two flyhalves should be kept in the Bok team. Their talents will surely give the team a more attacking and varied impetus in their play. Jaco Taute is the long-term solution to the Springbok outside centre position. He is a devastating runner, and his link play is arguably better than that of his future rival for the jersey, Juan de Jongh. Coenie Oosthuizen, Siya Kolisi, Marcell Coetzee and Juandré Kruger all have big futures ahead of them in international rugby. Time and exposure to international rugby will make these guys even better players, and this can contribute to a Bok team who are world beaters.
I reckon plenty of humble pie will be served when the Springboks hit their full stride in the next year, when the injured stars return and the young players get accustomed to international rugby. This Springbok team has the makings to be a very special team.