King Alberts and his value confirmed ...
November 15, 2013, 07:34:26
If anyone ever doubted what Willem Alberts means to the Springboks, his value to the national team would have been confirmed by coach Heyneke Meyer at the team announcement in Edinburgh on Thursday.
You would think that against Scotland the Boks would be prepared to rest the Sharks behemoth, but Meyer is clearly edgy about the prospect of going onto Murrayfield without the blindside flank there to galvanize the physical aspect of the South African defensive game.
Alberts is struggling with an AC joint injury picked up last week against Wales that has kept him from training this week.
His chances of taking the field against Scotland have been put by Meyer at 50/50 and he has been bracketed with Stormers flank Siya Kolisi, but that is not preventing the coach from holding out hope that he will be ready on Sunday.
“We are worried about him and if he is not 100 per cent ready we will not start with him and Siya will play instead,” said Meyer.
“But we would like to give him as much chance as possible to prove his fitness as we know how important he is to our team. He was superb last week against Wales and apart from making the most tackles he also put in some massive hits. He got the trophy from the players for making the biggest hits.
“We know that Scotland are physical and that their big strength is their play on the ground, so we feel we do need the impact that Willem can bring to the collisions. So we will give him a chance to prove his fitness, although at the same time we don’t want to take a chance if he is not 100 per cent ready as we have a big match against France in Paris six days after the one against Scotland.”
Alberts’s presence is important to the balance of the backrow, something that Meyer unwittingly underlined when he explained that Kolisi, the man earmarked to replace Alberts, is in effect seen as a specialist openside flanker going forward.
“I do see Siya’s long-term future as an openside, and we are working hard with both him and Marcell Coetzee on developing the necessary skills for that position. Siya has worked hard with Richie Gray on his breakdown skills.”
Arno Botha would probably have been the No 7 backing up Alberts had he not been injured and ruled out for the rest of the season during the last meeting with Scotland in Nelspruit in June.
And if Schalk Burger rediscovers his old knack of appearing in every game to be playing on the magic potion that used to galvanize the cartoon character Asterix, it might well be on the blindside flank that he will be accommodated.
But for now the back row mix when Alberts is present is quite different to when he is, which explains Meyer’s anxiousness to get the first choice ready for the Scottish battle.
A giant of a player. Hope he recovers. Kolisi is not a suitable replacement.