The AOR team debates what Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus should do with SA Rugby’s new willingness to bend the 30-cap threshold that applies to the selection of overseas Springboks.
Zelím Nel: Fetch the fetcher!
Ever since it became fashionable in South Africa to pick tap-dancers in the back row, the Springboks’ supply of try-scoring turnovers has slowed to a trickle.
Traditionally accused of picking flankers at centre, South African rugby has spent the past five years trying to scrub off the stench of that unpopular stigma. The result is an obsession with deploying a winger in the loose trio – the nation’s top Super Rugby side now features a No 8 that runs the 100m in 10.7 seconds, and who looks about as comfortable in the trenches as a postman at an email seminar.
Think that’s a load of codswallop? SA’s best ball-hawk is Malcolm Marx, a hooker. And only one of our top three turnover harvesters is a flanker. Needless to say, I’m a Roelof Smit fan, but the Bulls openside has zero Test rugby experience and there probably isn’t a trophy to go with his most memorable victory as a pro.
Enter Heinrich Brüssow. The Bloemfontein hyena was instrumental in the Boks’ series-victory against the 2009 British & Irish Lions, became a Tri-Nations champion later that year, and featured at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Oh, and he’s been on the winning side four times in five clashes against the All Blacks.
Brüssow jammed all of that experience into just 23 Tests before finding himself on the outs when Heyneke Meyer was appointed Bok coach in 2012. He spent five seasons in Japan before joining Northampton in January.
Having emerged as a fetcher-supremo at the Cheetahs in 2006, Brüssow will be well-versed in the principles of Rassie Rugby. At 31, he’s unlikely to be as combative as he once was, but the likes of George Smith and Richie McCaw have proven in the latter years of their careers that ageing fetchers find new shortcuts to the ball.
Tank Lanning: Nothing
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.
Having missed that bus, we now have a “half pregnant” 30-cap rule in place that is clearly not stopping players leaving the country. One, because there are macro factors at play that see youngsters losing faith in the country’s leadership and future. And two, because overseas clubs are now targeting players with less than 30 caps, safe in the knowledge that they will not have to give them up during the Test windows.
And now Erasmus, making proper hay in the wake of Allister Coetzee’s catastrophic reign, has won the right to break even the 30-cap rule. Surely it’s time to ditch the rule and thus this debate?
But it would be a bit party pooper’ish of me just to back out sans a few names! Yes, tighthead, scrummie and centre have been correctly identified as Bok problem areas, but would any of Vincent Koch, Faf de Klerk or Juan de Jongh be any better than multi-capped Jannie du Plessis, Francois Hougaard or Jan Serfontein? Or local lads Ruan Dreyer, Nic Groom and Lukanyo Am for that matter?
There’s no need to break the rule, but if I had to (and with the 50/50 transformation target in mind) I would be tempted to bring back a Cheslin Kolbe or Gio Aplon to play a Damian McKenzie role from the Bok bench!
You’ve read what they think, now drop a comment to let us know where you stand in The Big Debate!