As another World Cup chapter closes for the Boks, and with several senior members calling time on their glittering careers, the Rugby Rugby team has peered into the future and chosen a Springbok team for the 2015 World Cup in England.
There is a general consensus that it is time for a changing of the guard in the Springboks, with several senior figures, who have so long carried the torch, already hanging up their boots, while a few more are likely to follow suit within the next four years.
Most international coaches will explain that rugby works in four-year cycles given the importance placed on winning the Webb Ellis Cup, which means as early as next year it is time to start thinking about the 2015 team.
There will always be some peaks and valleys when it comes to form, as well as unexpected injuries and starling youngsters who seem to almost walk out of school and into the international arena. However, there is more than enough talent to choose from to pick a very strong Bok team as part of a four-year plan.
The argument of youth versus experience will always be topical, which begs the question why not pick youngsters next year and give them four years of Test rugby before they get on the plane to England in 2015?
Our panel of experts have taken out our array of crystal balls, tarot cards and used whichever blend of homeopathic remedies deemed appropriate to see into the future.
All six members of our eccentric crew have declared that they have the answer and a compelling argument to go with it, while also disagreeing on almost every position!
Common ground was established around the decision that it is time to invest in the youth and that there will be a number of new faces next time around.
A solid beefy front row has always been a South African pedigree and there are a few contenders to be the team's pillars. The fact that props have more longevity than backs means that current incumbents Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira will be 33 and 30, respectively, which isn't too old for a front ranker.
There are two other popular choices emerging in the form of Western Province's flame-haired 19-year-old Steven Kitshoff and Cheetahs' dynamic 22-year-old Coenie Oosthuizen, who should be ready for Test rugby in the next few years. Oosthuizen's recent move to tighthead recently has had people talking given the current lack of depth in the position.
As always hooker will be a debated position come the next World Cup, as Bismarck du Plessis is the obvious choice for the short term, but in four years at 31 will he still be the incredible player he is today? Captaincy might once again be a stumbling block for the Sharks stalwart, as Chiliboy Ralepelle is both a talented hooker and a born leader.
Paul Dobson argues that: "Chiliboy is a logical choice at hooker after Bismarck settles on his farm." Believing that the big man doesn't have the desire to play on for four more years. However, Len Kaplan's opinion differs somewhat, explaining that: "Bismarck is a player already looked up to by many who could grow into the captaincy himself."
The second row will look rather bare with Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha no longer there, and we shall have to move on and find two new workhorses. Andries Bekker is the first candidate that springs to mind, as the tall lock has been putting pressure on Matfield for the No.5 jersey for some time already. Michael de Vries fears that Bekker's injury record makes him a liability. "Bekker has had too many serious injuries early in his career and I will be surprised if he is in the mix four years down the line when he is 31," he said.
The Bulls have two tough locks in the form of Juandré Kruger and Flip van der Merwe, although Flip appears to have fallen off the bus and don't get a single vote from the panel. Kruger, on the other hand, looks to be a popular choice. De Vries explains: "Kruger has the potential to fill Victor Matfield's boots for the Bulls and the Boks." Jan de Koning believes he has spotted a new talent in the form of Sharks youngster Jan Andre Marais, in his opinion "one of the most talented and skilful young locks I have seen in a while".
There were also calls for South Africa Under-20 lock Eben Etzebeth, who looks to have a big future ahead of him, while his Western Province teammate Quinn Roux has his admirers. The darkhorse in the race for a second row berth is the Sharks' Kenyan-born starlet Daniel Adongo, whom Timmy Hancox rates very highly. "He has the full package of skills, strength, size and speed, combined with the desire to be the best."
There is always a lot of talent to choose from in the back row, and current stars Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brüssow could still be in the running for years from now. In four years time Burger will be 32 and Brüssow 29, so if their bodies hold up they could yet be a force on the side of the Bok scrum. Western Province youngsters Siya Kolisi, Nick Köster and Nizaam Carr could be in the running (names mentioned by a few of our panel), while De Koning fancies the skills of new Bulls hardman Jacques Potgieter, saying: "I feel that Jacques Potgieter is the closest to a Juan Smith we have."
Cheetahs openside Lappies Labuschagne, Lions bearded wonder Josh Strauss and Sharks No.8 Ryan Kankowski each get a vote, while Dobson believes schoolboy star Jacques du Plessis from Ermelo has a bright future.
Scrumhalf is the only position that there is a consensus across the board, with Francois Hougaard the outstanding candidate with all the skills to follow in the footsteps of Joost van der Westhuizen and Fourie du Preez - two Bulls stars who have World Cups for their country.
The backs are more complicated, with so many versatile youngster able to fit into a variety of positions. Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen is a rare talent has already done enough to convince five of the six selectors that he'll be in the No.10 jersey. However, De Koning believes Pat Lambie's best position is still at flyhalf. "I had to find a spot for Lambie and he ain't a half-bad flyhalf (I think he has a few years of last year's CC Final in him!). He can work on his goalkicking. Morné is unlikely to be around in four years and Goosen will be the understudy," he explained.
Lambie also receives four votes at fullback, where he has also proved he is more than capable of playing. The shock was Howie Kahn's controversial decision to leave him out. "The unluckiest player not in my XV was Lambie, he would be the ideal bench man and would be my back-up at 10 and 12," he explained. Upon hearing that news De Vries - a born and bred Natalian - exclaimed "Only an idiot wouldn't pick Lambie."
Jaco Taute is another contender for the fullback spot, and is too good not to be included somewhere in the team. The Lions star, who is currently lighting up the Currie Cup, is also comfortable at centre and could even make a good wing. Frans Steyn will only be 28, so there must surely be a place in the team for him? Inside centre is still the position where he has been at his best in the Green &Gold.
Juan de Jongh will also be in contention for a midfield spot and could well find himself playing at No.13 down the line. "He seems more of a runner than a distributor. But he will have to learn that he does not need to break the line every time he gets the ball," Dobson explained.
The best schoolboy star this year is Grey College centre Jan Serfontein, who could have the attributes to go all the way. "Put Serfontein on the wing as part of blooding him to take over from Steyn at inside centre. I like what I have seen of him and why not get him into the system on the wing and then move him back to centre (his favoured position) - like what was done with Jean de Villiers early in his career, Steyn himself and Jaque Fourie," Kahn argues.
Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn and Francois Venter are the other strong centre contenders who could grab their chance in the next four years.
Out on the wings there are a few options, JP Pietersen will still only be 29, while Sharks flyers Sibusiso Sithole and Lwazi Mvovo, Province's Bulls-bound star JJ Engelbrecht and Lions speedster Michael Killian could all be in the race. Killian is the outsider, as he - like Bryan Habana - will be 32.
The final choice out wide is highly talented Blitzbokke star Paul Jordaan, who is a very exciting prospect for the future. "Jordaan is a versatile back who can play anywhere from inside centre. He would not be out of place on the wing," Dobson said.
Our individual teams:
JAN DE KONING XV: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Schalk Burger (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Jan Andre Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Captain: Schalk Burger - "There not too many captains around, given the current crop of captains' ages, Schalk's the most likely to be still around in four years."
Biggest calls: Jan Andre Marais (IN); Coenie Oosthuizen (OUT)
LEN KAPLAN XV: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Jan Serfontein, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 François Steyn, 11 Paul Jordaan, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Nick Köster, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Captain: Bismarck du Plessis - "One of the standout players in world rugby; he already has special rugby acumen and will gain in leadership experience."
Biggest calls: Jan Serfontein (IN); Heinrich Brüssow (OUT)
MICHAEL DE VRIES XV: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Joshua Strauss, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Captain: Patrick Lambie - "One of the best players in the team who has the temperament to handle the pressure on the big stage."
Biggest calls: Sibusiso Sithole (IN); JP Pietersen (OUT)
PAUL DOBSON XV: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Paul Jordaan, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jaco Taute, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques du Plessis, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Eben Etzebeth, 4 Quin Roux, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (captain), 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Captain: Chiliboy Ralepelle - "He was an outstanding schoolboy captain and clearly has leadership and good sense."
Biggest calls: Jacques du Plessis (IN); Bismarck du Plessis and Frans Steyn (OUT)
HOWIE KAHN XV: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Jan Serfontein, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Captain: No captain - "My experienced core would be made up of JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Heinrich Brüssow, Andries Bekker (that body of his better hold up) and Bismarck du Plessis, but there is no outstanding choice as captain - a big worry and yet another reason why having John Smit at the 2011 RWC was the right one. At a push, and given my team... I would hand the captaincy to Hougaard - purely because he's energetic and a personality."
Biggest calls: Nizaam Carr (IN); Patrick Lambie (OUT)
TIMMY HANCOX XV: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Paul Jordaan, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Schalk Burger (captain), 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Daniel Adongo, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Captain: Schalk Burger - "The man of steele has the hunger and leadership to carry on for four more years and have one final crack at the World Cup as the skipper."
Biggest calls: Daniel Adongo (IN); Andries Bekker (OUT)
Clearly, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Springbok supporters with all this talent to choose from.
* What do you make of our selections? Who have we missed?
Compiled by Timmy Hancox
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