Rassie sweeps radar for talent

Keba Mothoagae

South Africa’s foreign legion will carry the Boks to world cup glory in 2019! You probably think that I’m inebriated or unrealistically optimistic about the Springboks’ chances in Japan – relax… I know that I’m exaggerating things just a little!

A lot has got to go according to plan (and way beyond expectation) between now and South Africa’s two clashes against New Zealand at the International Stadium Yokohama (Group B opening match on 21 September 2019 and the World Cup Final on 02 November).

Europe and Japan’s demand for our best players has long since exceeded the supply, and one Johan ‘Rassie’ Erasmus knew this from the onset of his term as Bok coach. The joke about how one can select an Overseas Bok XV that would beat the local Bok XV in a three-Test series is irritating and alarming.

Copious amounts of words and paper have gone towards underlining this harsh reality, but it’s notable how, when comparing him to his two predecessors, Rassie has been the most enthusiastic in selecting the overseas Boks. For example, look at how two bolters were brought into the Rugby Championship squad ahead of the Test against Australia in PE on Saturday – nine-Test tighthead prop Vincent Koch and the uncapped utility back Ruhan Nel.

Koch last played for the Boks against Italy in 2016, the year he joined Saracens, and is on record saying that he was surprised by the call up. Despite the fact that Koch will be in the stands on Saturday, his return creates a “nice” headache at No3 with the likes of Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Thomas du Toit and Trevor Nyakane jostling for the jumper.

Considering how Erasmus telegraphed his intentions when he wooed Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen and Willie le Roux for the series against England in June, opportunity still knocks for those in the north. Eighthman, scrumhalf and fullback were troubled positions for the Green-and-Gold over the past few seasons, an admission made by the coach in selecting the three.

Including Koch, Vermeulen, Le Roux, De Klerk, Francois Louw, Cheslin Kolbe, Francois Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis make it eight players who appear to be a part of the Bok plans moving forward. That is a great mixture of world-class talent and experience, something the post-2015 World Cup generation has been sorely lacking.

Guessing wildly, Ruan Ackermann, Marcell Coetzee, Kwagga Smith, Francois Uys, Jaco Kriel, Heinrich Brussouw and Cobus Reinach are among others who may be considered for selection with a very crucial end-of-year tour on the horizon.

If the Springboks hope to win the Webb Ellis Cup they need to have their story well put-together one year ahead of the tournament, which is why the November trips to England, France, Scotland and Wales must answer questions regarding the options available. No one knows what the coaching team and selectors might have in mind, but with team depth still shaky, you just never know how loss of form and injuries might influence them.

I mentioned Ruhan Nel – a noticeably burly 1.91m and 101kg – because his inclusion provides a curious twist to the plot. As far as I’m concerned, the Currie Cup serves up what are often glorified club matches, so for a player to be included in the national squad directly from the competition without having played in Super Rugby throws a lifeline to the other players at home.

Good form will be rewarded, so hopefully those who have been forgotten on the local scene will have added motivation to lift their game.

Flying low are the Southern Kings and Cheetahs’ exploits in the PRO14, where anyone who can impress against the likes of Ulster, Leinster, Munster, Glasgow and Scarlets home-and-away will appear on the the Bok radar.

There are less than 10 Test matches before the Boks jog on at Yokohama, and because the 2016 and 2017 seasons were abortive disasters, Rassie and Co. are racing against the clock.

A home sweep against Australia and New Zealand will probably settle 80 percent of squad selection, and make it fun to watch how players at home and abroad fight for the remaining spots in South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup squad!

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Follow Keba: @Keba_MC

- Keba Mothoagae

Let's chat

  • Barry Smith

    Keba, we are all enthused by the progress that has been made, but equally frustrated by some of the more recent selections that have been made!

    You highlight Vincent Koch as a major positive, yet many are scratching their heads over this selection, no less Koch himself! We already have five SA based contenders for that berth (you forgot Connie Oosthuizen). To my mind this was a Proudfoot buddy buddy thing. There are other areas in the squad where we are seriously light on depth, such as Scrum Half. Would it not be more sensible to be looking overseas in that channel rather than in areas where we are well covered?

    You also talk about players like Nel getting opportunities through good performance in the Currie Cup well then Sir, how are we to explain the exclusion of Dan Du Preeze – last week’s man of the match in the Sharks/ Lions game??

    Whilst we remain positive, there are some serious selection questions that remain unanswered!

    • Sue Spears

      A new dawn is Bok rugby…it’s about time with all the talent we have.
      Love what’s happening to our rugby with the once indomitable Bok spirit returning.
      Doc Craven always said you pick your footballers (ball players/x factor players) first and then build the team around them.
      So a few tweak suggestions from the peanut gallery for WC ’19..
      I hope Rassie isn’t missing a few trick here..
      Three players that will be first up on my wish list.
      JP Peterson
      Frans Steyn
      Cobus Reinach.
      JP is a big unit to combat aerial assaults and has fullback experience; a very stout defender that has buckets of BMT; a true warrior to go to war with; a no-brainer in tandem with Sbu and Amphiwe.
      Frans was the backline fulcrum at WC ’07 and during our triumph against the ’09 Lions; he’s in the form of his life; X factor and BMT by the bucket full; all rolled into one to get the backline firing outside Pollard and what a defensive combo they’ll make..!
      Don’t forget his Jumbo boot as well.
      Another no-brainer.
      Less Jack-in-the-box than Faf; an educated boot and a good sniper around the fringes; will give Handre half a meter more space and a good “like for like” with Faf.
      The best of a pretty bare cupboard.
      Duanne is a must of course and Bissie will also do nicely as malcolm’s back-up thanx..
      Some more nightmares for the AB’s brain trust..

    • John Comyn

      Barry, Greg et al you are starting to sound like a bunch of Lions whiners, Herman being the alpha whiner. Every selection is kak if they do not play their rugby in the province you support. Clearly the days of provincialism is alive and well. I’m hoping the CC results over last 2 weeks helps put things in perspective where the Sharks & The Lions got their asses handed to them on a platter. “To my mind this was a Proudfoot buddy buddy thing” do you have any idea how ludicrous your statement is. It’s laughable that you think Rassie is dictated to by his assistants.

      • Herman Schroder?

        LOL I’m late responding to this post and just want to comment on your lame reference to provincialism and the CC. First of all it’s not the fact that I prefer Lions players to the rest it’s because they are better coached in the expansive game plan they play week in and week as could be seen in the last two tests where they were VERY prominent in the try scoring stakes. In other words their skill levels are higher.

        Secondly it’s very hard to not favour your team when they are so clearly superior to the other Franchises and the records these past three years ample proof of that. Who else can I fluff up to prove a positive point ?

        Thirdly, by mentioning the woeful third / fourth tier watered down CC as a measure of superiority is laughable. You’re clutching at straws but it’s understandable considering the pain you’ve been under these past few years. Here’s an example. WP won the ‘CC’ last year and were hot favourites for SR glory. Where did they end up on the 15 team log ?? 11th if my memory serves me correctly. I rest my case. Cheers.

        PS : WP are looking great this year but what type of rugby are they playing under Dobson ?? Classic attacking expansive rugby. Case closed.

    • Keba

      My point was just about how we have to accept that we have to look abroad to give the Boks a harder edge going into the World Cup year. As for Ruhan Nel’s selection… well… it indicates to players like Dan du Preez that the door is still open even if the standard of the Currie Cup is not what it should be. “Keep working hard and delivering. A ticket might be reserved for you on the tour of Europe”. It’s up to the coach and selectors to decide who they want from the local game. Remember, if our players here raise their game, it raises the standard of the CC, and thus, the national game. Then we won’t have to go looking overseas.??‍♂️

    • Greg Shark

      There are quite a few notable exceptions to the Rassie rule….Dan Du Preez, Lambie, Reinach, any one of Schreuder / Cameron Wright are better right now than the present pretenders to Faf yet not a whiff…..

      Keba has got it wrong regarding Nel…he’s not overseas based but came from the 7’s stable…

      Koch…? whaaaat…..? as you mention, there are enough pretenders in the waiting line anyway…

      • Keba

        Ruhan Nel was mentioned in the context of pointing out that even if Rassie is prepared to look abroad for players, there’s still hope for those in a competition that has dropped alarmingly in overall quality. It reflects well on the 7s set up as well as the management at WP.

  • Augusto

    Hi, from Argentina. I haven’t watched play the new selected Nel, but (and this is a honest question) why aren’t there more 7’s player included in the southafrican Super Rugby teams, and the springboks? Some New Zealand player who cutted their teeth in 7’s are All Blacks now… In Los Pumas, almost (if not) all the backs and loose forwards have played for the national 7’s team. Is there some kind of policy you have in south-africa? Kok is a fantastic player, for example… I really don’t understand why isn’t he having the chance at 15’s.

    • Barry Smith

      Fair comment Augusto. Our 15’s Backline coach is from 7’s with the specific task of teaching the 15’s players about depth and space.

      Good luck for tonight’s game, we are counting on you to beat the All Blacks!!!

      • Augusto

        Thanks… Hope our guys give the Abs a run for their money

  • Morne

    Keba…i agree a fresh thinking coach with the element of surprise makes rugby exiting to watch again!!

  • Herman Schroder?

    Keba, I hate to bring the old ‘colour’ question into the debate here but please remember I didn’t bring it onto the table the powers that be did. My problem is simply this. If you are going to draw so many overseas players into the mix, most of them ‘white’ except for Kolbe, and you need a 50 / 50 split come WC time where are the rest of the local ‘white’ boys going to fit into the picture ?? Kind of seems tough to expect them to bust their guts in SR trying to impress Rassie when they know their chances are simply not good at all.

    I’ve long been critical of calling up theses overseas players based on their performances overseas. I watch a great deal of the overseas competitions on telly and their standard is either below SR or at best equal to it by only their top few sides. I’m convinced that all the NZ sides and the Lions at full strength would take their best to the cleaners the possible exceptions being Leinster and Saracens. French Top 14 rugby, where most of our players hail from, is a low standard ‘dom krag’ exhibition at best. So on what does one base their ‘expertise’ ? It can’t be past glory because most of them were part of the most dismal five to ten years in the annals of Bok rugby anyway.

    Further complications include their availability being at the whim of their club’s owners who have no sympathy for test rugby and the fact that they practically fly in for their guest appearances and then disappear till next time. How does one build a team culture and game plan around those negative factors ?

    Take the performances of Willie, Faf, Louw, Kolbe, Vermeulen at face value. Louw was pathetic, Vermeulen dumped by his French team had two storming games against England and duly disappeared in the third lost test. He then bowed out for greener pastures. Way to build a team culture. Kolbe was ok but there are so many other wingers in this country far more dynamic than he is. Willie and Faf were inconsistent to say the least with Willie especially poor in his last few games. So where is this so called importation of expertise and experience really getting us ? Nowhere in my opinion, all it does is muddy the waters for the ‘local’ boys of all colours.

    No Keba, local is lekker, build from within and the rest will follow. They have opted for the good life and good luck to them. We have loads of talent of all colours in this country waiting to be harnessed so let’s do what the most successful team in the world does, reward loyalty. Cheers.

    • Chris

      Two cents rugby picked a overseas based Bok squad. (players in current team excluded) Link to vid bellow.
      Team didn’t impress me much. Average age of these guys are pushing 30. Couldn’t even find a right wing. Had to settle on Rhule for gods sake !

      I often hear about forums talking about how many overseas player are not picked for the Boks, but have we really had a good look at who they might be ? We’re making assumptions that these guys would do any better if they played in Super rugby against Kiwi teams, or even get selected in a starting squad.

      I would have a look at Duhan vd Merwe though. Someone in SA needs to sign him for SR.
      Anyone able to pick a better team ? (pl. exclude injured players)


      • Herman Schroder?

        Thanks for the link and have posted a response there. Yes, let’s see them in SR for a season or two to see how good they really are. I’d also like to see ‘two cents’ tell us how many games these players actually play for their clubs and where they are in the pecking order at their respective clubs. Should be interesting. Cheers.

    • Albert


      Don’t you think perhaps the biggest issue facing SA rugby is the poor quality of our franchise coaches? Perhaps a solution would be to call up some guys who are coached by some of the best in the business based abroad? Furthermore, would it not make sense that we take knowledge and experience from all corners of the globe to develop our brand to become total rugby? Yes we could just hire coaches from all different backgrounds, but that would be expensive.

      Someone like Duane, clearly not your cup of tea, has so much experience from playing in the highest level all around the world that he could possibly bring something to our coaching structures. Ditto Willie and Faf. Once Johan Ackerman returns as Bok coach with a few years coaching in England under the belt, I bet my bottom dollar he will help the boks take that step up.

      Time will tell, but I certainly hope we don’t just chuck a SuperRugby team, warts and all, into international duty.

      • Herman Schroder?

        I agree totally on the poor coaching aspect and have been banging that drum for years now to no avail. Fleckie for example due to lack of money at his Franchise will continue next year on the road to nowhere. Dobson would in fact be a better choice despite his relative inexperience at the top level. He is a guy with vision and knows what the modern game demands in terms of attacking rugby.

        For me Duane is an enigma. His French club had clearly seen that he was past his sell by date and offered him another contract but at a severely lower rate if he wished to stay on. He has now opted for the AB De Villiers option of playing for SA when it suits him. I have no problem with that it’s his choice but it does nothing for the development of a team culture within the Bok camp. We beat NZ without him didn’t we and guess who was eighthman ? Lol.

        There is still a hardcore left in this country with suitable experience to form the backbone of the side. We need just a few players with proper skills to be brought on within a ‘happy’ team environment and weld them into a formidable unit. It can be done. Cheers.

      • John Comyn

        The theory our coaches are all bad is nonsense. They have all done well coaching overseas. Ackerman is doing a good job as did Rassie and we are hearing good things about van Graan at Munster. Does anyone think Stade would have hired Meyer if they thought he was average. I think not! Our key problem is players leaving to play for overseas clubs. Jake White is a top notch coach if only he could get on with people.

        • Chris

          Excellent Vid on our coaching issues. All self inflicted wounds of course.
          Also worth watching this guy’s other vids. He has some really interesting FACTS based stuff on how our rugby went wrong.


        • Herman Schroder?

          Believe me HM is average. He will be loved in France because their club rugby is closest to the dom krag paradise that HM once bestrode during the dinosaur years, so in effect he’s the perfect fit. Of course French rugby currently ranked 9th in the world is a sure indication of just how effective that rugby is these days. Remember this job is his first significant posting since 2015 so he hardly had countries beating down the doors for his signature did he ?

          I agree that the current new crop of players going overseas are going to be a loss in the short term but the ‘golden oldies’ we can well do without. Cheers.

  • John Comyn

    One of the better pieces I have read from an independent writer on this forum. You nailed it Keba!

    • Herman Schroder?

      I’m awaiting his reply to my post, nothing as yet. Cheers.

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