Boks: Is Reinach a (very) quick-fix?
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Intrigue surrounds the thumbs-up for overseas-bound Sharks scrumhalf Cobus Reinach in an extended Springbok training camp in early April.
Coach Allister Coetzee on Monday named another group - there has already been one camp - for a Stellenbosch rendezvous between April 2 and 4, this time excluding any players from the Bulls and Kings who will be campaigning abroad in Super Rugby.
But the latest party does feature a call-up for the nippy, pugnacious Reinach, who has been in sprightly form for his franchise, enjoying a four-game winning trot.
The 10-cap prior international is due to quit the Sharks after this season’s Super Rugby, as he has signed terms with Northampton Saints in the English Premiership for the 2017/18 northern hemisphere season onward.
His involvement in embattled national coach Coetzee’s plans is interesting given that after the three-Test home series against France in June, Reinach supposedly becomes ineligible for the Boks until 2019 at the earliest (another World Cup year) under recent new SARU rules.
In terms of the stipulation, no overseas-based Bok players who do not boast more than 30 green-and-gold caps can in future turn out for the country, a policy that involves a reprieve in RWC years.
Reinach will very soon, then, no longer be available for SA, including in the Rugby Championship and for the traditional end-of-year tour.
But he could have a slightly baffling “farewell” stint against the uncompromising French, who had a credible enough Six Nations recently, marked by a solid, aggressive forward unit in particular; it is clear they will be no pushovers at all for the fragile Springboks.
If anything, it seems to indicate just how intense the pressure is on Coetzee to engineer a series win against France, by hook or crook, to extend his tenure.
Reading between the lines, and given a particularly rocky situation at No 9, Reinach is seen as fairly essential, even on a known short-term basis, by the coach in his most immediate quest.
Why else, frankly, would he be there?
The Boks laboured in the berth last year, including seeing the Lions’ diminutive Faf de Klerk start his Test career like a house on fire - he did some heroics things at times in the squeezed-out series against Ireland - but then lose both form and confidence very acutely.
He came especially short as a game-manager and on defence around the fringes, an area where a now increasingly mature Reinach arguably offers better scope; the Boks continue to rue the retirement of the strategic genius who was Fourie du Preez.
Reinach features alongside Jano Vermaak (Stormers) and Shaun Venter of the Cheetahs as scrumhalves in the latest training squad.
The commitments abroad for the Bulls of men like Rudy Paige and Piet van Zyl meant these prior Test players in the role could not be considered for the moment, whilst someone like Francois Hougaard of Worcester Warriors could still feature if Coetzee feels suitably well-disposed toward him.
Versatile Hougaard has 39 Bok caps, meaning he ticks the box for longer-term regular presence if required.
De Klerk is a conspicuous absence altogether from the party named for the Stellenbosch get-together ...
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