If you could recall three overseas-based players to rescue the Springboks against France in June, who would they be? ZELIM NEL and TANK LANNING debate!
Zelím says: Bismarck du Plessis, Duane Vermeulen, Frans Steyn
Several factors contributed to 2016 becoming the worst season in Springbok history, but a theme of Allister Coetzee’s first season was an athletic pack getting beaten at the point of contact.
It was so unbearable that captain Adriaan Strauss retired from Test rugby. His absence now casts a question mark over the one facet of the Boks’ forward play that did function efficiently – the lineout.
While the long-term answer is Malcolm Marx, the 22-year-old Lions hooker couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo when asked to feed the lineout during two Test appearances last year.
Enter Montpellier rake, Bismarck du Plessis. The 79-Test Bok veteran maintained South Africa’s elite lineout standards after John Smit retired in 2011, he’s a perennial contender when scribes dish out World XV honours and, in general play, he gives lesser hookers, like Dane Coles, sweaty palms.
Warren Whiteley, Oupa Mohoje, Jaco Kriel and Nizaam Carr are mobile support players, but not Test-calibre loose forwards.
No-one can legitimately question Duane Vermeulen’s appetite or aptitude for the rough stuff. Recalling the Toulon hammer would immediately make the Bok pack more respectable and more capable of winning the fight for gain-line supremacy.
We’re still searching for Fourie du Preez’s successor and, while we wait, the Boks are losing acres of ground in the territory battle.
SA is flush with enterprising runners, but none of our tactical decision-makers are quite sure where the ball is going after it leaves their kicking boot.
Curwin Bosch has the chops to solve that problem at fullback, but he’ll first have to polish his contact skills. Until then, let’s deploy Montpellier playmaker Frans Steyn at No 15.
Steyn has the experience of 53 Tests, is a 110kg frame under the high ball, and is a rocket launcher in the kicking game.
Tank says: NONE!
“The Bok jersey should be worth a lot more than any money you get overseas; playing for your country should be priceless. The jersey must mean something,” said Jake White in a great column on All Out Rugby this week.
And I agree.
But we differ in the plan to get that value in the jersey back. Jake believes the only way to get it back is to win, and that this can only be achieved by picking the overseas-based players, given that all our top players have flown the coup.
What we should have done from the get-go is pulled a “Kiwi”, been brave and ballsy, and not selected players who choose to ply their trade overseas. Not to snub players who make this choice, as they have every right to choose money over the Bok jersey, but to instill a rugby culture in SA that places the Green and Gold at the top of the food chain.
It’s not too late to make that call, so let’s make it now.
We have been selecting overseas based players to date and not winning. Is selecting a few more going to change that? Unlikely. What if it doesn’t?
In another interesting column on All Out Rugby this week, Brenden Nel reckons the fickle fans in SA are driving our top players away given how quick we are to write them off and replace them with a young star. And while I do not necessarily agree, it does point to the amount of talent we produce here in SA.
Let’s stop trying to match overseas salaries, and instead use the money to improve local and grassroots structures, players and coaches. It will take time to reap rewards, but it’s the only sustainable model.
You’ve read what they think, now let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!