I have compared the 4 teams, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland, that top their pool as of 7th Oct 2015. What I have looked at is the amount of gametime in minutes that each player in each squad has had so far in this RWC.
In Australia’s squad only three players have played less than 50 minutes of rugby in the 2015 RWC. Sam Carter is understandable because he has only just joined the squad replacing Will Skelton. James Hanson hasn’t had any action yet. This may be because the captain, Stephen Moore, is in the same position as him and Tatafu Polota-Nau being his back-up, Hansen finds himself still waiting for gametime. James Slipper has only played 35 minutes of rugby so far in this RWC. Michael Cheika, Australia’s head coach, may be managing Slipper for a reason.
Australia only have two players that have played more than 170 minutes that is Kane Douglas, 176 minutes, and Scott Sio, 174 minutes. So on a whole the squad has shared the gametime quite evenly without overplaying some players and giving enough time to others.
Ireland have managed their team just as well as the Aussie’s, with prop Tadgh Furlong, 17 minutes, and fly-half Paddy Jackson, 23 minutes, the only two in their squad to have under 50 minutes gametime. While the only two to have more than 170 minutes are Jamie Heaslip, 219 minutes, and Keith Earls, 211 minutes. Keith Earls played two games on the left wing and one game at outside centre.
New Zealand havn’t been as good as the other two with sharing out gametime. Tawera Kerr-Barlow has had 43 minutes of action, while Keven Mealamu has had only 23 minutes. Steve Hansen, New Zealand’s head coach, must be managing Mealamu. Considering Mealamu’s age, 36, and how he is expected to be used, off the bench in the last 20 minutes, Hansen will be trying to look after this stalwart. Liam Messam has not played at all so far because of a calf injury.
New Zealand has five players that have played more than 170 minutes, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Julian Savea, Ben Smith and Sam Whitelock. Savea having the most gametime with 240 minutes across three Tests.
South Africa have seven players with less than 50 minutes of gametime. Jan Serfontein, 6 minutes, has only just come into the squad to replace Jean de Villiers. Two guys have yet to see any action not for any other reason than they have just not been selected. These two players are Morne Steyn and Rudy Page.
People suspected that Rudy Page was a token selection and Heyneke Meyer’s actions have proved this to be true. Morne Steyn I suspect was included in the squad to keep Elton Jantjies out.
Compared to the other teams South Africa has a staggering nine players that have already clocked up more than 170 minutes of gametime. Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Schalk Burger, Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel, Francois Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Handre Pollard and Fourie du Preez. Francois Louw and Bryan Habana both having already clocked up 244 minutes each of RWC 2015 gametime.
This indicates to me that Heyneke Meyer is overplaying certain players and not using others. The load of work that it takes to win a RWC is not being shared through the squad. HM has outdated views of how to manage a squad. His mindset is one of: A team with replacements. Where modern coaches have a mindset of: a squad where any member of the squad can come in and do the job.
HM is relying on players that are stars rather than a decent gameplan. Through his selections he has demonstrated that he has very little confidence in Pat Lambie, Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and especially Rudy Page.
Quite arguably South Africa are in the easiest pool. Wales, Argentina and France are second placed in their respective pools compared to Scotland in Pool B. Tonga, England and Italy are the third placed teams in their respective pools while Japan are third in Pool B.
South Africa having been in the easy pool should have really shared out the gametime amongst the squad, topped the pool and then have had reasonably fresh players for the knockout stages. Today the Boks take on the U.S.A after a four day turnaround. Who is in the run on team for today’s Test? All nine of the Springboks that have already gone past the 170 minutes of gametime mark.