Bright Bok future
Editor of ArenaSport, David Moseley (File)
There’s a tendency amongst local media, headline writers and other rugby “experts” in South Africa to focus on the negative as far as the Springboks are concerned. Just today the tired old race debate reared its head making for predictable outrage and fan frothing.
It’s also true that the Boks have underperformed in 2012, while the great coming of Heyneke Meyer has been something of a let down so far, a bit like the revered wine-pouring Jesus turning water to light beer instead of a full-bodied Cab Sav.
We’ve had stories nailing Meyer for sticking with Morne Steyn, we’ve seen irate posts on the Bok inability to score tries and (quite rightly) there’s been much outrage at the plight of plucky Patrick Lambie. These rants and opinions get the blood going, and they certainly rile up the readers more than anything else.
The reality however, once you step away from the Heyneke hullabaloo, is that the Boks have never been on the cusp of a brighter new dawn than they are now. They’re far from greatness and a long way from repeating the success of the 1995 and 2007 classes. But when they do, not if, when, they’ll do it with greater style and panache than we’ve ever seen from a Springbok side. Three for the money
Consider the three main characters that have made the Springbok story so intriguing (and infuriating) this year. In Elton Jantjies, Johan Goosen and Lambie South African rugby has, for the first time ever, three young flyhalves that could go on to be absolutely world class.
While the Boks have been blessed with quality number 10s since 1992 (Butch James the best of the bunch for this scribe), they’ve never before had so many outstanding options in that key position. And with all due respect to the likes of Andre Pretorius, Jannie de Beer and Jaco van der Westhuyzen (to name just a few), nobody has moistened the loins in recent times quite like Lambie, Goosen and Jantjies.
Each player offers something different, and if rugby is to ever go the full “squad rotation” way (increasingly likely if the wear and tear across all countries this year is anything to go by) Heyneke Meyer and future Springbok coaches could find themselves in the enviable position of being able to pick a flyhalf to suit a certain style, environment or even weather condition.
Right now it’s impossible to say which one of the three will become an iconic Daniel Carter-like figure (if ever), but certainly Lambie and Goosen appear to be the fan favourites for future stardom. Jantjies, who before the Irish Test was technically the number one flyhalf in the squad (after coming on for Goosen during the Boks’ last Test), can probably feel aggrieved at missing out this weekend. However, his move to the Stormers next season will only benefit his career, and create even more choice for whoever is coaching the Boks by then.
As well as Jantjies played at the Lions, playing for the side that finished top of the Super Rugby log this year can only improve his career momentum. The Stormers will also be buoyed by their Western Province Currie Cup success this season and will want to make sure that 2013 is an even better Super Rugby season. Jantjies could very well be the key.
These three players will form the focal point of the next generation of Springbok success. Already all the heated talk this year has focused on Lambie, Goosen and Jantjies. As long as they’re around (Jantjies and Lambie are 22, while Goosen is just 20) the Boks can only get better. But wait, there’s more
Look also at the rest of the squad. How long has it been since the Green and Gold has been infused with such youthful, energetic talent?
In a way, the mass retiring of the Class of 2007 has made this an altogether more exciting, more promising squad. There are very few hangovers from the Jake White/Peter de Villiers/John Smit era. This can only be a good thing.
In a way, the new boys can only sink or swim. And as we’ve already seen from some of them (Eben Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee and, fleetingly, Goosen) these lads are in no need of poolside assistance.
Francois Louw, Raymond Rhule, Etzebeth, Coetzee and Jaco Taute are just some of the names, coupled with seasoned but still youthful stars like JP Pietersen, Francois Steyn, Andries Bekker and Bismarck du Plessis that make this era of Bok rugby one of the most promising.
The talented duo of Siya Kolisi and Coenie Oosthuizen are also sitting at home with their feet up, hopefully recovering for a lengthy stint in the squad set-up.
When you look at these names you don’t think stodgy, one-dimensional rugby. You see speed, agility, handling skills, enthusiasm and, most importantly, youth. When it’s harnessed correctly, great things await this generation of player and fan (and that’s without even delving into some of the Under-20 stars we’ve seen rise to the occasion this year – Paul Jordaan, Jan Serfontein, Steven Kitshoff and so on).
Yes, rugby fans. It’s been a grotty, uncertain year. But look at all the potential, look at all the future greatness. When the coach gets the mix right, Saturday afternoons will never be the same again. David Moseley is a former Features Editor of Sports Illustrated and current editor of sports magazine website ArenaSport. Click HERE to follow ArenaSport on Twitter.
Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.