Keep Euro Boks to a minimum

Gavin Rich

It might seem contorted logic to suggest the Blitzboks’ success in the World Sevens Series provided proof to Allister Coetzee as to why he should try and keep the overseas-based player component to his Springbok squad to a minimum, but bear with me.

Last year the national Sevens team was far and away the biggest South African rugby success story. It probably wasn’t coincidence that the success story of a bleak year is also the only national team that SA Rugby has complete control over. There are many reasons for the Blitzbok success, but that the group is based in Stellenbosch, spends months rather than weeks or days in camp and has a singular focus is a big part of it.

Unlike with the national 15-man team, the players do not have any distractions once they are part of the Sevens squad. By contracting themselves to Sevens, they avoid being pawns in a tug of war between the national body and the provinces and they sign up to be part of a uniform conditioning and training program.

Springbok coach Coetzee does not have that luxury. He is much more dependent than Sevens coach Neil Powell on the different conditioning coaches around the country doing their job. When Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said recently that South African teams lagged because of conditioning, he may have been unfair to the Stormers and the Lions, but generally it is a perception that is hard to challenge.

The Kiwi teams do play at a quicker tempo than the South African sides and they tend to outlast opponents from this country. It has been documented enough that a big part of what they get right is the control the New Zealand national body has over conditioning. The All Blacks players have one paymaster.

Obviously Coetzee cannot have his players in camp as long as the Sevens players are in camp. He cannot have the same control for the simple reason that the provinces and the overseas clubs do still have a big stake in the players that he selects to play for him.

In a rugby country that demands instant gratification, a long view is not always possible. The Super Rugby results, at least when compared to New Zealand’s, appear to demand that if Coetzee is going to retain his job, a liberal sprinkling of overseas based players who boast the necessary international experience be called up when he names his squad for the French series tomorrow.

After his experience last year, however, Coetzee should know better than anyone that selecting overseas-based players cannot just be based on considerations relating to whether they are good enough to play international rugby. He also needs to be able to assess whether those players meet with stringent fitness criteria, and whether they are keeping pace with any innovations in conditioning coaching back home.

Before the Twickenham Test against England last November, Coetzee complained about how debilitating it was that several of his stalwarts only joined up with the squad on the Sunday before the game. He had only a few training sessions to reabsorb them into a group that had been together for two weeks before that.

One of the advantages that the All Blacks have over South Africa and other international teams is that all their players are home-based and thus all of them take part in training camps and are subject to regular individual evaluation during the Super Rugby season. In short, the advantage the Kiwis have is the same advantage that the Blitzboks have if you compare them to the Springboks.

Coetzee knows that and it is why he should tread warily when it comes to calling up overseas-based players to his squad for the Junes series against France.

The value of the national training camps he has assembled this season would be significantly lessened if half his starting team is going to be made up of players who were on the other side of the world when those camps took place.

- Gavin Rich

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  • Willie

    SARU/AC should implement a simple strategy for Bok selections, re the Euro Boks> IF you dont play in the Super Rugby, you don’t play for he Boks. This will make training camps that much better as all the players would be in SA.We have more than enough LOYAL and GOOD players in SA to make the Boks a strong voice again.

    • Mike S

      What is a LOYAL and GOOD player. Does that include players who clearly cannot make the step-up to international rugby? Who are simply not good enough to be in demand by overseas clubs? Does it include LOYAL players who stand around in the last ten minutes while the fitter NZ players run rings around them? LOYAL should mean that you pay attention to your conditioning if you knew that last year you were not up to scratch.

      From the other point of view, would you reward a player as loyal because he played through injury or returned early from an injury layoff for the “good of the team”, under pressure from a coach whose job was on the line. Or who loyally played for a province where his skills coach had less knowledge of skills than some of the players or the defense coach was appointed because he had no other place to go and is learning on the job. Look at a couple of examples:

      Is Jan Serfontein a better player than four years ago? How much progress has Damien d’Allende made since he burst on the scene? What happenned to JJ Engelbrecht, a promising left wing, who became a deadbeat of an outside centre. Are Handre Pollard and Patrick Lambie better flyhalves than four years ago? What the hell happened to Pierre Spies who wowed us at the Royal Bafokeng stadium.? Why was he used like a Billy Vunipola type battering ram for the rest of his career? Why did Heinrich Brussouw, the fetcher who forced the IRB to change the tackle “daylight” rules so NZ’s McCaw could remain competitive, leave SA in frustration? If we had to find a replacement for Fourie du Preez, why did we ignore so many promising young scrumhalves in the last eight years: Tersius Carse who never missed a receiver, who could weight a pass so perfectly, that a prop could score a hat trick off his passing? Instead we kept selecting Sarel Pretorius, Piet van Zyl, Reinach and others, who could not pass for s**t and had no vision, but we love them because they score tries, mostly when they are out of position in general play. Why did we not bring Rory Kockott into the mix? He was better that January.

      Players leave this country, mostly because we have shit coaches, shit selectors and shit fans. They are not disloyal, they are desperate. All of the names I mentioned above would have been much better players if they had left. Ask any player who plies his trade in Europe or Japan about the skills coaching and the expert medical services available. How players are rotated to keep them fresh. How a player is never ALLOWED to play with even a slight niggle. Why? Because he is valued.

      Change the system where a professional sport is run by amateurs and the players are seen as commodities to be used to further the careers of officials and coaches, before you require loyalty.

  • Wessel Oosthuizen

    Will have a limit on oversees players no more then 4 in the match day team.

  • Nick Paddock

    No euro boks. Simple

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