What to do with Rassie’s 30-cap pass?

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!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • boyo

    Tank you had it right by saying no overseas based boks. I feel our decline coincided with picking overseas based players because our local rugby was weakened. With regards your pick of Aplon/Kolbe (Transformation target in mind) I cant see why you would pick an outside back for that purpose when that is the one area where we are well stocked(in the transformation sense).

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      That is indeed a fair point, Boyo. And with Damien Willemse right up there, in the “Strobe light stepping” department, perhaps he is the man we go to for that sort of role?

      • Dalone

        I disagree
        For 2 years we have lacked experience in our backline. Aplon is experienced,fast and definitely capable of still playing for the Boks. Willemse should be part of the big bok picture yes . A backline consisting of Aplon Combrink and Galant is a great mix of talent ,experience,passion and loads of pace!

      • boyo

        Great Local alternative and there is no reason he couldn’t cover fly-half, fullback and wing.

  • sharky

    “Traditionally accused of picking flankers at centre”? Really Zelím? True, post De Villiers/Fourie we have struggled to find a partnership that consistently performs, but which of the recent Bok centres would you class as a “flanker”? To help you here’s a list (from memory) of Bok centres over the past 5 or so years: Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Jean De Villiers, Zane Kirchner, Francois Steyn, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Lukhanyo Am, Francois Venter. Have I missed anyone? Who of these players even vaguely resemble a flanker? And who has ever accused the Boks of that? And “wingers in the loose trio”? Next you’ll cite Albert van den Berg as being proof that we traditionally select wingers in the tight 5. What hogwash!

    As for the 30 cap rule – I agree with Tank. Abolish it and put systems in place to encourage players to stay in SA. And for the love of God stop the likes of Grey Bloem becoming a conveyor feeding the French club system.

  • Adriaan

    Listening to players leaving SA shores, they are aspiring to represent European countries and at this stage couldn’t care less about a Bok jersey. I believe that unless we 1) abolish the quota system and 2) recover the economy so that a contract is worth the paper it is written on, this debate will merely continue. Some players leave because they want to earn in Euro’s/Pounds, and some leave because they want to get opportunities based on their ability and skill and do not wish to compete against “more favored” South Africans for positions in the national side. Nobody on the planet ever believed that Rudy Paige was the 2nd best scrumhalf in South Africa, yet he was keeping numerous talented 9’s out of the side. I would have left SA too…. I agree with Sharky – abolish the rule and address the problem.

  • Barry Smith

    The demand for overseas players became paramount during the Toetie era, simply because we urgently needed to in some way fill the gaps that were created by poor strategy and poor coaching. I think this will be less of an issue undet Rassie – at least I hope so. The Sharks game over the weekend was cause for much celebration! Whilst they in the end did not get the result, they made the Canes look very ordinary for 78 minutes and this is arguably NZ’S top side. The 30 cap thing serves no purpose, it has not stemmed the flow, so scrap it!

  • Brett

    All fair comments, so my 2c worth:
    We do not suffer a rugby culture problem … Yet. There is a critical mass of players from SA that ply their trade overseas for reasons not found in any other rugby nation. Some have authentic concerns, some do not. If one looks at the representivity of players of colour in SA on purely talent grounds, I believe that SA rugby (I refer here to the community, not the administration) has done an exceptional job of capturing all communities’ passion to play for the ‘Boks. Quotas are no longer needed – the talent is there and the trajectory will not stop now. Scrap quotas and build further on the emerging culture that way, and then forsake the overseas players. If transformation remains as a political security blanket, pick your best regardless of where they ply their trade.

  • George

    Stupid question, but if we continue picking overseas players and politically motivated players, what is going to happen with our real upcoming talent? The end…

  • Gary

    I honestly think that we have enough talent here to do the job. If we can get a core squad of 30 or 40 players together, hopefully all on form and not reputation. It’s going to come down to whether the coaching staff can get them to gel, adapt to his game and build confidence.

  • Grant

    Sounds like a “future” problem. Players that go overseas do so because of money and future. In France, for instance, players have a direct route into financial services and other corporate jobs based on the skills gained from rugby. In SA there is no clear future. All that needs to happen is to make a clear future plan. It would be even better if that plan went back into rugby and helped develop the game and the finances. The 30 cap rule is a rule that personifies SA rugby at the moment. It is short term thinking – we need long term thinking, Long term thinking is the only way forward. It’s the equivalent of running an old IT system, you can keep patching it and keeping it going, but the new systems elsewhere are just going to get better and faster. Take a long term look at the system and replace what needs replacing with the newer thinking and the system will work better for years to come again. Scrap the 30 cap rule, it’s old thinking and does more harm than good.

    • Mike Stoop

      How does rugby give you a direct route into financial services? That statement is way off. I can see South African banks and insurance companies run by people who spent 15 years of their adult lives on a rugby field, gaining skills for a career in financial services.

  • Angelo Briesies

    I think the only position we have a problem with is at 9.I think Faf should be picked. All the other positions, we have good players to pay for the boks. About (Transformation), I think they pushing the 50/50 to fast. They should wait another world cup. The transformation process/structures is working. Just look at the up and coming talent. Honestly i dont know why we should have a 50/50. The best players should be picked, but i guess it is what it is.

  • Ferdinand

    Gio Aplon is way too old. Cheslin might be a good option, but just quickly have a look at how easily he falls off when a big winger comes his way. It reminds me of the game the Stormers lost in Wellington and Julian Savea just lightly bumped him off. You need strength and speed on the wings. We dont have that currently. I’d bring back JP Pietersen to play on the left wing, and put R.Combrinck on the right. I cant stand this continuous selection of wings who cannot tackle to save their own lives.

    The 30 cap rule needs to be scrapped and Rassie should be able to select the best irrespective of where they play.

  • Gerhard

    The problem for me is not finding a fetcher,every player including the backline players should fulfill this function.Strange that the all Blacks backline players can all turnover a ball at the tackle for ages now.We have not caught up on that yet and the reason is simple..Skills which is coached to all their players irrespective. The “secret ” is if we have not yet discovered since the progress to Professional Rugby you have forwards in the back and backs amongst the forwards so every player should have “all” skills to turnover the ball.Problem is our backs are all waiting for the fetcher to win the ball.Why is Malcolm Marks not waitting for our fetcher to win the ball,because he has the skills to do it.Winning the ball at breakdown for me is one of the most important part of the match where a lot of opportunity exist with turnover and quick ball to run when the defence is disorganised.This brings me to tackling which lacks in all our teams as the attacker has to release the ball immediately when tackled to the ground and the tackler can get up quickly on his feet and contest and win the ball or his teammate could go in to win the loose ball.

  • Gerhard

    apologies I meant tackler could get up quickly and contest the ball.

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