How exciting does that Bok squad for the BaaBaas game look?
The 12 new faces - Lizo Gqoboka, Thomas du Toit, RG Snyman, Roelof Smit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Uzair Cassiem, Tian Schoeman, Francois Venter, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sergeal Petersen, Jamba Ulengo and Cheslin Kolbe - are all young, exciting, and most importantly, in form.
It’s like a breath of fresh air. One feels for Travis Ismaiel and Raymond Rhule, but at least we are seeing the form out wide being rewarded with selection, and given the dominance of the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup, I would have had Niel Marais ahead of Schoeman as the back-up flyhalf.
All of them should be staying for the entire tour, though, not just popping across for some fun against the BaaBaas. But more on that later.
The two selection issues I do have with the squads are right up front at prop and hooker.
Lourens Adriaanse is the only tighthead in the squad for the BaaBaas game, so obviously Du Toit and Trevor Nyakane are seen as dastardly “swinger” props who are said to be able to play on both sides. They can’t, and as said a million times before, swingers are for Friday nights at your naughty neighbour’s house, or a bygone era prior to 23-man squads. Select specialists!
Instead of giving a Wilco Louw, Johan Coetzee or Tom Botha a taste of international rugby, Coetzee has fallen into the trap of trying to get the best players onto the field, even if it means playing them out of position. It’s wrong.
Speaking of wrong, what are we doing taking Adriaan Strauss on this tour? Jake White took it to the extreme at Montpellier when he dropped Francois Trinh-Duc, the club’s first-choice flyhalf for most of a decade ahead of the player's move to Toulon next season, but if you want loyalty, as they say in the classics, buy a dog!
Is this not the ideal opportunity to see Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi go head to head for that Bok No 2 jersey? An opportunity to give one of Akker van der Merwe or Chiliboy Ralepelle some insight into life in the current Bok set-up? And also a perfect opportunity to give a few of the senior players a shot at captaining the side?
“We went back to base zero, and in everything we do we looked at how we can improve,” said the coaching team this week. How is taking a guy who is retiring after the tour resetting the clock? Now is the time to be brave and experiment a little! What an opportunity lost...
Of opportunities lost, why not give the squad for the BaaBaas game the opportunity to see out the tour?
If it were up to the country’s most successful coaches, Johan Ackermann and Franco Smith they would be doing exactly that, having jumped on the “Local is Lekker” player selection train this week.
I was wavering on this for a while given what I believed to be a devaluing Bok jersey not being a big enough drawcard to attract players. But I am now firmly back said train calling for the selection of only locally based players.
Rugby is NOT just about putting 15 stars onto a field. Instead it is about getting the collective to be better than the sum of its parts, with the best team not always comprising the best individuals.
Given the state of the Rand, we will never ever be able to compete with the salaries offered abroad, so why try? Instead let’s aim to offer players something they simply cannot get outside of SA - our climate, lifestyle, people, and the chance to don the Green and Gold.
By having to give up something in order to play for the Boks, not only do we build the value of the Bok jersey and brand, but also get to select from a pool of players who desperately want to wear the jersey.
It also speaks to the building of a South African rugby culture that sees national interests being placed ahead of provincial interests, one of the primary goals to come out of the recent coaches’ indaba. Although ironically, this would strengthen domestic rugby by keeping more players in SA.
But most importantly, it speaks to trusting a talent convey belt that currently feeds European rugby to also power a brave new Bok side like the one set to take on the BaaBaas - one that actually stands for something.
Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.Disclaimer: Sport24
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