If you read between the lines, the 30-cap rule has effectively fallen away and Rassie Erasmus can motivate to pick any South African, anywhere in the world, to play for the Springboks.
That means there’s no excuse for putting out a team that isn’t competitive every single time.
It also seems like the Bok coach will have to meet a 50-percent transformation quota during the season. That is much more realisitic than having to meet a 50% quota in every single Test because injuries, illness and form can disrupt even the best of plans.
The rules that Erasmus will have to play by are based on team performance and the requirements of the Strategic Transformation Plan. I would strive to make the most of those rules to create depth and playing opportunities for black players while trying to win championships along the way – these are the things that the Bok coach is going to get measured on.
The Test against Wales in Washington D.C. falls outside the official window so it’s very unlikely that the overseas-based players will be released for duty. June is the point of the European season where the playoffs take place and teams like Montpellier, Toulon and Saracens won’t release players.
So how can we work the situation to get the most out of that Test while still giving the Boks a chance to make a winning start to the season, and at the same time ensure we’re ready to host England the following week?
If I was the Bok coach, I’d look to pick a team against Wales that is made up of local players with a special emphasis on those that count towards the transformation targets.
Siya Kolisi would potentially captain a side that featured Tendai Mtawarira, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Marvin Orie, Lood de Jager, Thembalani Bholi, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Damian Willemse, Raymond Rhule, Damian de Allende, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck and Warrick Gelant.
This team would serve the dual purpose of banking transformation credits to create selection breathing room for the England series, and would also give all of these players a chance to put their hand up on the international stage.
Some people might see this as a throwaway selection but I would pick this team to win based on the fact that these players are good enough to battle the best of Australia and New Zealand almost every week during Super Rugby.
Remember, Wales will be coming off a tough Six Nations campaign and European club competitions and the Test is at a neutral venue. One only needs to look at how well South Africa’s next-stringers did at the Hong Kong Sevens with a selection strategy that ticked multiple boxes.
While the one Bok squad is in the USA, a second group that includes SA’s most experienced players is at home preparing for the England series. There, you pick all the veterans that understand the pressures of Test rugby and who have played against the England players in the Aviva Premiership and the Champions Cup.
The team might look something like this: Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Jean-Luc du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard, Aphiwe Dyanti, Frans Steyn, Lukhanyo Am, Sbu Nkosi and Willie le Roux, with guys like Bismarck du Plessis, Elton Jantjies and Curwin Bosch in the training squad.
This certainly doesn’t mean that those who face Wales won’t be selected the following week – if anyone has a blinder they could definitely force changes and the experience of a player like Mtawarira would make it difficult not to include him against England.
And that’s exactly what you want as a coach (to create a competition for places in the squad) and as a player (to know that you’ve been selected because you’re the best).
Leading up to the first Test against England, you’ve given guys Test match experience at the back end of a Super Rugby campaign, and you’ve spent a week preparing your most experienced squad for the series.
If you win the Test at Ellis Park on June 9, then you would keep the same group for the second Test. Based on what you get out of the first three Tests of the season, you field the side that played against Wales in the third Test against England.
And if all has gone according to plan, you go into the Rugby Championship with the same approach – the team that played against Wales goes against Argentina while you start prepping for Australia and New Zealand with the team that played against England.
That means you could be meeting your transformation objectives while growing a squad capable of winning a series, like the one against England.
The reality for the coach is that, whichever way he does it, he’ll have people questioning his method. If he changes the team every week, they’ll question it, and if he doesn’t, they’ll question it.
But it’s no use being overly sensitive about the transformation requirements or short-sighted about the Test window limitations. It’s a case of understanding that, over a period of four Test matches, there’s enough leeway to give players opportunities and also win an important series against England.