Six former players give their thoughts on the 49-man Springbok training squad.
Werner Swanepoel (former Bok scrumhalf)
‘Everyone is going mad, but Heyneke Meyer and the selectors had to make some tough choices. The squad is still far too big anyway, so some players will be cut. I’m surprised Francois Hougaard was left out, because he’s so versatile and had a good season on the wing for the Bulls. I’m not surprised to see Pierre Spies omitted, but a forward who has been unlucky is Jaco Kriel. I think he’s better than some of the other loose forwards in the current group.’
Ollie le Roux (former Bok prop)
‘I don’t think people should read too much into the squad at this point, as almost everyone who was on anyone’s radar is there. The notable absentees for me are Jaco Kriel, Johan Goosen and Francois Hougaard. Kriel has been in great form, and I’ve always been a Goosen fan. Hougaard maybe hasn’t shown the form required, but he still has the pedigree to produce for the Springboks. The age of the squad also concerns me. Historically, starting lineups with too many players over the age of 30 don’t do very well at World Cups.’
Robbie Kempson (former Bok prop)
'How does Jaco Kriel not make that squad? His form alone should warrant selection, but it just shows that Meyer intends to go with the tried and tested for this World Cup. In that sense, he’s doing the right thing by showing everyone what his intentions are from the outset. Francois Hougaard is also a surprise omission, as he is great off the bench and his versatility is always useful.’
Chester Williams (former Bok wing)
'It's a fairly balanced squad. Heyneke Meyer covered all his bases. There are a number of players who were unlucky to miss the cut, but that's not to say those selected do not deserve to be there. My biggest concern is the injuries. Not knowing whether everyone will be fit for the World Cup could be a spanner in the works. Proven match-winners like Fourie du Preez, Pat Lambie and Jean de Villiers need to be match fit before our opening World Cup game against Japan. Heyneke has showed his hand, now it's just a case of making sure his players overcome these untimely injuries.'
Werner Greeff (former Bok fullback)
'Meyer is going for experience, which is good. This squad will be cut to 31, but injury permitting, he will have a strong match 23. Some have questioned his decision to back an injured Fourie du Preez over Francois Hougaard, who is fit. However, Hougaard is not a good enough scrumhalf to go to the World Cup and despite doing well for the Bulls out wide, there are better wings available for the Boks. I'd pick Du Preez over anyone else, even if he isn't match fit. I'm also ecstatic about Heinrich Brüssow's inclusion, that is well-deserved.'
Wayne Fyvie (former Bok flank)
'It's pleasing to see Meyer rewarding Super Rugby form, but also going with experienced veterans. The only glaring omission is Jaco Kriel. If he'd played for a New Zealand franchise, I'm sure he'd have at least got a look-in in an extended All Blacks squad. The poor guy must be wondering what else he can do to get the coach's attention. It's good to see Brüssow back in the equation. The continued disregard of him could have backfired on Meyer. Fourie du Preez is key to the Boks' success, he has always been. He is too much of a class-act to ignore and those questioning his inclusion just because he hasn't played for an extended period are fatuous. Maybe all these injuries are a blessing in disguise, with Meyer now forced to give fringe players a chance in the Rugby Championship. As for the absence of Hougaard, the bottom line is he played wing and didn't really perform well enough throughout the season to warrant selection. And the same goes for Johan Goosen, Pierre Spies and JJ Engelbrecht.'
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