A trainspotter positioned outside the Springbok hotel in Umhlanga Rocks in Durban would be rewarded with the sad sight of one player after another packing his suitcases into a taxi as the whittling down of 44 players into the 31 that will do duty in England begins to take harsh reality.
One of those deemed surplus to requirements at this stage and has been conspicuously spotted outside the Bok environment was scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who pitched up to observe a Sharks training session, no doubt in the knowledge he will soon be on Currie Cup duty.
Bulls scrumhalf Rudy Paige is tipped to be the third scrumhalf in Heyneke Meyer’s squad to be announced tonight (5.30pm, live on SS), with “Royal Game” Fourie du Preez the No 1 choice and the ever-dependable Ruan Pienaar doing what he usually does at World Cups – covering most of the backline positions as a general dogsbody.
While those close to Meyer know that he would not pick Du Preez if he did not believe the veteran still has what it takes to guide the Boks to a World Cup triumph, there are others who will wonder if the perennially injured Du Preez will last the distance.
The Boks are flirting with the laws of the tournament – a player that arrives at the World Cup injured cannot be replaced. Hard to prove, of course, but food for thought.
The same will go for captain Jean de Villiers. He will be picked, suspect jaw and all, and there is almost no South African who will not wish a fairy-tale ending for the 34-year-old centre, who will have to prove his fitness in the pool games, as will Du Preez, Francois louw, Jannie du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen.
It appears there will be no such luck for Marcell Coetzee, the flanker that was in fine form before injuring knee ligaments in the Rugby Championship and he is likely to be left behind with Sharks teammate Reinach.
The loose forward department is typically competitive and it is understood that another to lose out will be Heinrich Brussow, the opensider who could once boast that had beaten the All Blacks four times-in-a row.
Meyer is looking to do what former Bok coach Kitch Christie did way back in 1995 when he picked lock Mark Andrews as a loose forward, and in 2015, youngster Pieter-Steph du Toit is set to play a similar role, albeit off the bench, with Victor Matfield and Eben Etzebeth the certain starters, and Lood de Jager the other lock specialist.
Along with Du Toit, the other loosies will be Duane Vermeulen (another who must prove he does not arrive injured at the World Cup), Schalk Burger, Louw, Siya Kolisi and Willem Alberts.
In general, the squad mostly picks itself. Meyer is no maverick and is reliably conservative in his selections.
He will probably let go one of a surfeit of semi-injured tightheads he has in the squad, with Vincent Koch the most threatened.
Meyer will surely have a bead of sweat on his forehead tonight as the nation awaits his explanations on his selections ahead of the team departure on 11 September for the opening Pool game against Japan on the 18th.
Some will feel that there have been the dreaded “quota” selections in the squad, given the negative publicity after the Boks lost to Argentina in Durban and it was alleged that black players in the Boks squad had privately complained to Cosatu about unfair opportunities.
Meyer has already answered that question.
Last week, he passionately said: “I am a proud South African and a man of integrity. I do not see colour when I pick players for the Springbok team.”
As usual, there is mystery over Francois Steyn. the 27-year-old veteran of the 2007 and 2011 World Cups who left the squad on compassionate leave over a fortnight ago (and was injured at the time), and he has not rejoined the squad or given any indication that he is available for selection.
Possible RWC squad
Jean de Villiers
Willie le Roux
Damian De Allende
Fourie du Preez
Jannie du Plessis
Bismarck du Plessis
Lodewyk de Jager
Pieter-Steph du Toit
By Mike Greenaway
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