Cape Town – The Springbok World Cup hangover is still wearing off, but there is one final – albeit unwanted – hurdle to get over.
Friday night’s Bronze Final against Argentina is a match that nobody wants to be a part of, but it could provide the platform for a few Boks to say their goodbyes to international rugby.
Of course, it all hinges on team selection, and coach Heyneke Meyer must find a balance between fielding a strong side while allowing for a touch of sentimentality.
Here are FIVE players who we could be seeing the last of in Springbok colours:
Age – 38
Tests – 126
It has been one of the finest Springbok careers, but now it is over. Matfield didn’t end the way he would have liked – injury and then the emergence of Lood de Jager limiting his involvement at the World Cup. Still, he has won everything there is to win in rugby and will leave with his head held high. He will surely play some part in Friday’s clash, and Meyer will be very tempted to give him a start.
Age – 31
Tests – 60
He is still in good shape, but with Handre Pollard and Patrick Lambie not going anywhere, it is hard to see Steyn featuring for the Boks after the World Cup. His only involvement so far has been a run-out against the USA, and Meyer will be tempted to give his former pivot some time against the Pumas. But it all depends how Pollard and Lambie are used on Friday, and that will be one of Meyer’s tougher calls at Wednesday’s team selection.
FOURIE DU PREEZ
Age – 33
Tests – 76
He hasn’t officially retired yet, but Du Preez has pretty much said that Friday will be his last game for the Boks. Consistently the best scrumhalf in the county for over a decade, Du Preez answered the call to lead when Jean de Villiers was ruled out of the campaign, and he did so in exemplary fashion. He will be missed, but the time has come for a new No 9. Big shoes to fill for whoever that is.
Age – 32
Tests – 85
Burger has been immense for the Boks at this tournament, and for the last 12 years, really. He also hasn’t officially hung up his boots, but reports have suggested that this is the end of the road for the ‘Incredible Schalk’. We here at Sport24 still think he should be given the No 10 jersey on Friday night… just for giggles. In all seriousness, Burger’s journey has been one that epitomises the passion of the Springboks.
Age – 31
Tests – 31
Like Steyn, Kirchner still has a bit left in the tank. But his Bok future is likely dependent on whether Meyer – a clear fan of his – stays on after the World Cup. It is hard to see a new coach turning to the overseas-based Kirchner, but his contribution to the cause has been admirable over the years. Unfortunately for him, Kirchner’s only involvement in the tournament so far was starting the Boks’ opening game in Pool B. And we all know what happened there.