Cape Town - Siya Kolisi warrants strong
consideration purely on logical, orthodox rugby grounds for a maiden start in
Springbok colours against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday (21:40 kick-off).
He has earned 11 caps, all as a substitute,
and frankly seems ripe for an opportunity to gauge what he offers from the word
go in what are often the harshest and most revealing of phases of rugby
matches, as the “best” players on each side go at each other to establish a
Like it or not, too, the fact that fresh
political ructions have shaken the national team landscape in the few days
since the undesirable 37-25 first-time loss to Argentina in Durban may very
well only enhance his claims.
The 24-year-old from Zwide in the Eastern
Cape played the last 17 minutes (as replacement for Heinrich Brussow) of the
shock 37-25 loss to the Pumas at Kings Park which consigned them to bottom-placed
finish in the Castle Rugby Championship for the first time since its expansion
to four nations.
Under difficult circumstances, Kolisi put
himself about busily in his limited exposure - the first occasion in some 21
months that he wore the green and gold jersey.
Before that, he had last sampled Test
combat against France in Paris in November 2013, when the Boks won 19-10 in
slightly happier times during Heyneke Meyer’s period in charge, although he
only played the last six minutes then.
Kolisi went through a period of both injury
and form-related problems after that, but this year has begun - particularly
for the Stormers - to look much more closely like the forceful young athlete of
a few years ago when he cut his teeth in first-class rugby.
As flanks go, he arguably still falls
somewhere in between - both physically and in playing style - an open-sider and
blind-sider, and it could be argued that he hasn’t irrefutably found his
positional home yet.
Yet a sound argument in his favour would be
that modern loose forwards are increasingly expected to be able to both scrap
for the ball at the breakdown and carry, tackle and roam with vigour, so his
versatility should be viewed as an asset.
Kolisi may have good reason to be miffed
that 11 caps have not yet produced a spot in the XV, and on that score reports
that a handful of black Springboks have approached Cosatu over their
“sidelined” treatment may well lead observers to believe that Kolisi is at the
fulcrum of the matter - not necessarily as an agitator himself but as a case
It is in times of relative crisis - like
four successive Test defeats, as has been the case - that race-related rumblings
tend inevitably to come most strongly to the fore in ever-complex South Africa.
If a message comes from somewhere “above”
to the currently embattled Meyer that he needs to deepen his commitment to
transformation, then Kolisi ought to be a prime candidate to benefit for
Saturday’s run-on team selection even if he would be quite entitled to argue
that politics is no more than an additional factor at play and his choice would
be on merit.
The time seems fitting for the nod, bearing
in mind that he was the designated loose forward replacement last Saturday,
pulled his weight during that final quarter, and now No 7 flank starter Marcell
Coetzee has been laid low with a knee injury that leaves him touch-and-go for
the World Cup.
South Africa also have the behemoth
blindside bruiser Willem Alberts supposedly ready for duty at last this weekend,
although it may be a tall order for him to actually begin the Buenos Aires
revenge opportunity considering that he is significantly more ring-rusty than
Rightly or wrongly, if the “Bone Collector”
leapfrogs the supposedly bubbling-under Kolisi into the XV this weekend, it is
only going to ruffle further feathers in political circles.
He hates to be dictated to in any way over
selections, and so would virtually all other international coaches, but Meyer
will have to ponder whether that is the correct course of action in the
present, volatile environment ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing