The majority of reports on Allister “Toetie” Coetzee’s appointment as Springbok coach, focused more on transformation challenges than on preparing a team in limited time for a test series against a side that won the Six Nations twice in the last three years.
This is of course not strange, with 2016 being an election year, and racial matters dominating everything, including sport.
After the formal announcement, Coetzee said:
“When a player is selected, he must understand where he fits into the team, regardless of colour. When we select a player we look with one pair of glasses. I need to back every player that we select, it is not about race. We must be smarter in the way we use our physicality and put a lot of emphasis on decision makers, especially nine (scrumhalf) and 10 (flyhalf).”
Oh Captain my Captain
Coetzee indicated that he is looking for a leader who will act as an extension of his coaching philosophy. He also said that the renowned physicality of the Springboks will still form a cornerstone of the style of play he envisages. Adding these two elements together, it will be difficult not to see Duane Vermeulen and Flo Louw fitting the picture perfectly. Amongst the forwards, another possible contender in this mode is Adriaan Strauss, although I suspect he will battle to cement a permanent hooker berth with some very talented youngsters coming through.
Two other contenders who may lack Bok experience, but not bundles of talent and leadership skills, are Warren Whitely and Jaco Kriel. Although I view Coetzee as fairly conservative, picking a captain with a long-term view may just pay handsome dividends. The latter two will also face severe competition for a spot in the starting line-up.
As Coezee indicated, the number 9 and 10 players will be the ones who determine the style of play. Despite my misgivings about Heyneke Meyer persisting with Pollard when Lambie should have been given more game time, I still believe that, once fit, Pollard is the number one choice. Elton Jantjies has certainly grown in stature, and will no longer be regarded as fourth or fifth in line. He now has an opportunity of cementing his spot while some of the favourites are on the recovery path.
The mention of Johan Goosen and Morné Steyn will no doubt require a few diehards having to replace their nappies, but it shows that Coetzee is not blinkered, and will possibly look much wider than most of us armchair selectors do.
There is talk that SA Rugby is considering an approach similar to what Australia has implemented, using a sliding scale of test matches played for contenders playing overseas. One must bear in mind that the Aussies have far fewer classy players to choose from than South Africa, and are essentially forced to find a system that makes the selectors appear to be in charge.
I have no doubt that we will be able to select a very competitive side from those plying their trade locally. As the World Cup draws nearer, we seem to adopt a political approach to overseas players: I have principles. If you don’t like them, I’ve got others.
We have more than enough time to groom and establish a group of players that can win RWC 2019 for us. The last thing we want to happen is again being forced to pick a Victor Matfield or a Jean de Villiers.
Na my mening is Toetie reg vir die uitdaging. Ek dink daar is baie meer dinge wat in sy guns tel as sy twee voorgangers. Voor julle die “skop-en-storm” etiket om sy nek hang, gee hom ten minste die geleentheid om sy kaarte te wys.
Ten slotte net dit: Watter veld in die land, of liewer, watter veld waar daar Superrugby gespeel word, in die hele wêreld, trek die grootste skares, week na week?
I rest my case.
Ek sit my tas neer.