Yes, believe it ... we’re back to Test rugby this weekend. The new-look Rugby Championship kicks off on Saturday, with the Springboks hosting Argentina in Cape Town in what should be a comfortable victory for Heyneke Meyer’s men. Class-wise, the Argentinians don’t compare and they may be full of nerves, desperate to show the rugby world they belong in a competition alongside the Boks, Australia and New Zealand.
But most eyes will be on Meyer’s charges who blew hot and cold against England in June, which they might get away with against the South Americans, but they’ll certainly have to step up their game if they’re to compete on an equal footing with the All Blacks and Wallabies.
Questions still persist about some of the men Meyer will put his faith in over the next few weeks and hopefully answers will be forthcoming during the same period. First and foremost is the question around flyhalf where it seems Meyer, for now, is confident of going with Morné Steyn. It might be something of “last-chance” for the Bulls No10, but if the Boks are to get their challenge off on a winning note and be confident ahead of the more demanding clashes against New Zealand and Australia, Steyn’s going to have to deliver the goods big time. He’s certainly capable ... it’s just a matter of doing it, so let’s hope he’s back on form.
On his inside, the form of Francois Hougaard was also somewhat worrying against England; the little man not nearly as convincing at scrumhalf as he’s been on the wing for the Boks – especially at last year’s World Cup where he made a huge impact off the bench. He, like Steyn, needs to regain his best form quickly or Meyer will have no choice but to look elsewhere. And there’s one other man who’ll be very much playing for his Bok career in the next few weeks: Pierre Spies. The Bulls No 8 has had his ups and downs in the Bok team, going on to win over 50 caps for his country, but he’s never put together a string of performances to suggest he’s “a must” at eighthman in the team.
The non-availability of Duane Vermeulen and the patchy form of Ryan Kankowski and Ashley Johnson have, however, allowed Spies to feature in almost every Test since 2007, but he will soon be pushed hard for a starting place unless he finds some extra spark in his game.
It’s going to be an interesting Rugby Championship, what with Argentina joining the fray, but I can only wonder what state the players will be in come the beginning of next month: I suspect we’re going to have plenty of tired men out there, and the quality of rugby is sure to suffer, too. – The Star