SHARKS flank Jean Deysel is expected to be a surprise inclusion in the Springbok Rugby Championship squad when coach Heyneke Meyer names 30 players today.
Deysel, 28, who has four test caps to his name, is a bruising ball carrier – and will feature as one of the Boks’ strike runners during the campaign.
With Arno Botha out for the season, Schalk Burger’s career still in the balance and Juan Smith’s retirement (although he has been seen training in Bloemfontein) there is a shortage of No 7 cover.
Fellow Sharks flank Willem Alberts will be the first choice blindside flank, but Deysel, who has Bok experience and was one of the form players at the end of the Super Rugby season, is a logical backup to his provincial teammate. Marcell Coetzee and Siya Kolisi are both viewed as hybrid players who can fulfil both a blindside and openside role. But Deysel is a specialist No 7, noted for powerful runs and solid defence close to the rucks.
Depending on Meyer’s split between backs and forwards, it might mean that Cheetahs flank Lappies Labuschagne, who was part of the broader squad in June, could fall out. Labuschagne has been a revelation in the blindside role for the Cheetahs, although physically, he is more suited to the openside position.
The Bok coaching staff certainly sees him as an option in the No 6 jersey, but with Coetzee and Kolisi sure to be in the squad and also capable of slotting in at openside, keeping Labuschagne in the group could be pointless.
With a season-ending ankle injury to scrumhalf François Hougaard, the door has opened for Piet van Zyl to join Jano Vermaak and Ruan Pienaar as the scrumhalves in the group.
Hougaard’s form was a worry throughout an injury-plagued season and his setback means that Meyer is spared having to axe one of the highest-paid players in the country. But Hougaard did offer options from the bench, having played test rugby on the wing as well as Super Rugby at centre.
Deysel aside, the squad should not feature too many surprises, although there will be several overseas-based players in the group.
Wing Bryan Habana (Toulon), flyhalf Morné Steyn (Stade Français), lock Juandre Kruger (Racing Metro), fullback Zane Kirchner (Leinster), Pienaar (Ulster), Vermaak (Toulouse), flank François Louw (Bath) and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle (Toulouse) should all be in the party.
Steyn’s move to France, which came about after a poor 2012 season, is untimely in the sense that he is the form flyhalf in South Africa at the moment. By going overseas he might well fall down the pecking order behind Pat Lambie and Johan Goosen, when the latter regains full fitness.
The biggest blow to the squad, is the unavailability of lock Andries Bekker and wing J P Pietersen, who both have club contracts in Japan that exclude them from participating in the Rugby Championship.
Bekker’s contract denies him the right to play any test rugby while Pietersen has a clause that he can represent the Boks in June and for the end-of-year tour. But missing the most important part of the Springboks’ season is damaging for Meyer. Possible squad: Forwards: Lourens Adriaanse, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Jean Deysel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Juandré Kruger, François Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen.
Backs: Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers (captain), Juan de Jongh, J J Engelbrecht, Zane Kirchner, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Jan Serfontein, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak.
This is a version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, August 3, 2013.