A breathless Cape Town rugby writer last week wrote how worried Springbok coach Allister Coetzee must be after the Sharks and Stormers got skinned alive in the Super Rugby quarterfinals. A day later I read a headline on television: “Blow for Boks as Frans Malherbe ruled out for three months.’’
Later in the week Coetzee himself proudly announces that Blitzboks who perform during the Olympics in Rio will put up their hands for the end-of-the-year tour to Europe, like serial try-scorer Seabelo Senatla. Oh come on… have these guys been watching a certain South African team romp to the Super Rugby final? When you have a side cleaning up Kiwi teams at their own game of which arguably all 15 players are putting up their hands for Bok selection, why are we bothered with these little sideshows?
In 2009 when the Bulls won the title for the second time, the Stormers, Cheetahs and the Lions occupied three of the last five positions on the Super 14 table and the Sharks didn’t even qualify for the semifinals. The Boks beat the British and Irish Lions that season and won the Tri-Nations, beating the All Blacks three times along the way. Clear proof that you don’t need scores of teams vying for the title for your national team to be a force. One, and a good one at that, is a very good start.
Malherbe ruled out isn’t the end of the world either. In all fairness, he shouldn’t have been the starting tighthead prop for the Boks in their series against Ireland anyway. That honour should have belonged to Lions strongman Julian Redelinghuys.
And speaking of Lions, winger Courtnall Skosan is the one that Coetzee needs to look at instead of Senatla. Skosan has proven himself as a top-quality finisher against top-quality opposition, the very same ones Coetzee hopes to beat when they are clad in All Black kit. The jury is still out on Senatla in the 15-a-side code and only when he does make his mark there, must he be considered.
At Ellis Park on Saturday, a Lions fan was enjoying his side’s performance so much against the Highlanders that he proudly proclaimed Coetzee must pencil in the Pride of Johannesburg on his team sheet first when selecting a team and then come up with a very good reason for each player he wants to chance with someone from another province. A very biased and optimistic approach, but actually not that far-fetched if you think about it.
I strongly doubt whether we’ll see all 15 Lions in the Bok team, but there could easily be 10 of the pride starting for the national side. It shouldn’t be a case of Francois Louw being a given at No 6. Why should he be? Jaco Kriel should be at No 6 and Coetzee should tell us why Louw is currently better for this job. Bet you he can’t. Same goes for Redelinghuys, loosehead prop Dylan Smith, lock Franco Mostert and inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
They richly deserve joining their Lions team-mates Warren Whiteley, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe and Ruan Combrinck in Coetzee’s starting line-up. These guys have played their part in ushering in a new and exciting era in South African rugby. One that leaves Kiwis gasping in their wake, for a change, and one that has the potential to lift us out of the doldrums we have seen lately. The time has come for Coetzee to play his part in the revolution.