Dangers of making 'all the Lions, Springboks'

2016-07-27 13:11
Ruan Combrinck and Courtnal Skosan (Getty)

Cape Town - Following their impressive - and lone SA flag-flying performances in this year's Super Rugby tournament - calls have naturally grown for national coach Allister Coetzee to "make all the Lions, Springboks".

Garrin Lambley cautions against this being the case.

Caught up in the euphoria of the Lions' impressive season, it's all too easy to suggest the Lions starting XV en masse should swap their red and white colours for Green and Gold in the upcoming Rugby Championship.

As recently as last year's Rugby World Cup, not a single Lions player formed part of Heyneke Meyer's squad which eventually finished third in England.

Fast forward to the Ireland Test series in June this year and new coach Coetzee had eight Lions stars (Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe) in his squad as the Boks stumbled and fumbled their way to a fortuitous 2-1 series win.

Now, those three Tests later, calls for even more Lions players in Coetzee's Rugby Championship squad have grown in intensity.

But... does a very good Super Rugby side naturally translate into a Rugby Championship title-contending Springbok team?

The loudest calls for Lions players to join their team-mates in the national squad have been for Malcolm Marx, Courtnall Skosan and Rohan Janse van Rensberg.

Let's for a moment pretend Coetzee does keep his Ireland squad intact for the Rugby Championship (not a far stretch at all) and heeds the public's calls for Marx, Skosan and Janse van Rensberg to be added. That would mean 11 Lions players in the squad.

Sit down for this next stat... those 11 Lions players have played a combined total of 28 Tests. That's an average or 2.5 Tests per player!

It would result in surely the most inexperienced squad ever selected in the history of SA rugby (since the very first one) - and for certain a position Coetzee WON'T put himself in when facing the might of New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

Either South Africa need to tear up the manual and start afresh, or we turn a deaf ear to the calls to make all the Lions, Springboks - and opt with experience.

While their might be a fair degree of tongue-in-cheekness to the call to make all the Lions, Springboks, it does make for an interesting comparison when breaking down, position by position, the last Springbok starting XV against the Irish in Port Elizabeth to the Lions starting side that beat the Crusaders in their quarter-final clash in Johannesburg last weekend.

In which positions, based on current form alone, would the Lions player NOT make the starting Springbok side for the opening Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Nelspruit on Saturday, August 20? Not many!

Let's take a look:

15. Fullback

Incumbent: Willie le Roux

Lions player: Andries Coetzee

Verdict: Andries Coetzee

14. Right wing

Incumbent: Ruan Combrinck

Lions player: Ruan Combrinck

Verdict: Ruan Combrinck (no change)

13. Outside centre

Incumbent: Lionel Mapoe

Lions player: Lionel Mapoe

Verdict: Lionel Mapoe (no change)

12. Inside centre

Incumbent: Damian de Allende

Lions player: Rohan Janse van Rensberg

Verdict: Rohan Janse van Rensberg

11. Left wing

Incumbent: JP Pietersen

Lions player: Courtnall Skosan

Verdict: Courtnall Skosan

10. Flyhalf

Incumbent: Elton Jantjies

Lions player: Elton Jantjies

Verdict: Elton Jantjies (no change)

9. Scrumhalf

Incumbent: Faf de Klerk

Lions player: Faf de Klerk

Verdict: Faf de Klerk (no change)

8. Eighthman

Incumbent: Warren Whiteley

Lions player: Warren Whiteley

Verdict: Warren Whiteley (no change)

7. Blindside flank

Incumbent: Siya Kolisi*

Lions player: Warwick Tecklenburg

Verdict: Jaco Kriel/Francois Louw/Sikhumbuzo Notshe (toughest call)

6. Openside flank

Incumbent: Francois Louw

Lions player: Jaco Kriel

Verdict: Jaco Kriel

5. Lock

Incumbent: Pieter-Steph du Toit

Lions player: Franco Mostert

Verdict: Pieter-Steph du Toit

4. Lock

Incumbent: Eben Etzebeth

Lions player: Andries Ferreira

Verdict: Eben Etzebeth

3. Tighthead prop

Incumbent: Frans Malherbe

Lions player: Julian Redelinghuys

Verdict: Julian Redelinghuys

2. Hooker

Incumbent: Adriaan Strauss (captain)

Lions player: Malcolm Marx

Verdict: Adriaan Strauss (captain) - confirmed as skipper for the remainder of the year

1. Loosehead prop

Incumbent: 'Beast' Mtawarira

Lions player: Dylan Smith

Verdict: 'Beast' Mtawarira

*Siya Kolisi has been ruled out of the Rugby Championship, necessitating at least one definite change to the last Springbok starting XV selected.

Assuming that no player from the Stormers, Bulls, Sharks, Cheetahs and Kings has put up their hand in the Super Rugby matches since the Ireland series (which they certainly haven't!), on pure form alone the Lions would have a staggering 10 players in the starting XV at tackle the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium.

Would that team have any hope of beating the All Blacks?

Let us know at mysport@sport24.co.za


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