It can’t be easy being Allister Coetzee and his selection panel this week.
The Springbok coach will announce his first squad on Saturday, as well as that of the SA ‘A’ team.
And it doesn’t come without headaches.
The biggest problem is that some of the players that were expected to be automatic choices are being outperformed by their peers.
Then he’s got to juggle between players moving overseas and guys that still want to ply their trade in South Africa.
Of course, they also have to take their transformation targets into consideration when they name the squad.
It’s commonly accepted that Bok coaches will favour players from their region, or franchise.
This means a heavy Stormers presence in the squad.
But the Cape side has only won one match in their last five outings in Super Rugby and are seriously out of form, adding to what should be an exciting squad selection.
Let’s start at the back of the line.
Willie le Roux is the incumbent fullback, but with English club Wasps being heavily linked with the No.15, it certainly raises questions about his availability for the national team.
With veteran wing Bryan Habana already ruled out of the series against Ireland, the Boks will have lost another experienced player in their back three.
In the midfield, the form of centre Damian de Allende is concerning.
On Saturday against the Bulls, De Allende scored a good try for the Stormers, but he failed to get the outside backs going, holding onto the ball too long, especially in the first 40.
Jesse Kriel, too, has not been at his best this year.
At flyhalf, Coetzee will thank the stars that Pat Lambie has shown what he can do this past weekend, winning the Man of the Match award for the Sharks.
Elton Jantjies should be in the mix there as well.
But it’s at scrumhalf where Coetzee will really have to scratch his head.
Rudy Paige, who was expected to be the next Bok No.9, is currently playing second fiddle to Piet van Zyl at the Bulls.
At the back of the scrum, Duane Vermeulen is still available and he is a favourite to captain the side.
Flankers is nog ’n kopkrap.
Here, Francois Louw is still an option. But I find it difficult to see Schalk Burger holding on to the No.7 jumper he wore in the third-place playoff against Argentina at last year’s World Cup.
In the tight five, Coetzee and his co-selectors will are spoilt for choice.
What is clear, though, is that we should get a fresh and in-form Bok team when the announcement is made this coming weekend.
And while the “incumbents” are not in red-hot form, there are other players that have put up their hand.
Now it’s just up to Toetie to find the perfect blend and reward those players who are in form and want to play in this country…