Columnists 16.5.2017 09:47 am

Why Lionel Cronje needs to become a Bok

Lionel Cronje. Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images.

Lionel Cronje. Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images.

The Kings skipper is the only viable deputy to Elton Jantjies and his short-term form fits in with the Boks’ need for short-term results.

Contrary to what certain people think, assembling an international team is not about picking the best players.

Well, not always.

Rugby, because of all its injuries, is a sport where a coach invariably needs to pick the best players at his disposal.

There’s an important difference here.

Also read: The usual suspects dominate our Super Rugby XV for the week

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is in this position with his flyhalves before next month’s series against France.

We all know Lions pivot Elton Jantjies is the first choice candidate to wear the No 10 jersey and rightfully so.

He’s been solid this season and played in 9 Tests last year.

However, when you mention a deputy for him, the waters become muddy.

Handre Pollard injured his ankle a few weeks back and is only expected to return after the French visit, while Pat Lambie’s future is in doubt after he sustained concussion again at the weekend.

Given Lambie’s long battle with it last year, there must be fears for his long-term health.

As a result, an unlikely name has popped up: Kings skipper Lionel Cronje.

It’s a pretty crazy story.

The 27-year-old journeyman has been at the Stormers, Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Brumbies.

He didn’t make a mark at any of those sides.

Unsurprisingly, many chuckled when Cronje was plucked from obscurity to play for the Kings in Super Rugby this year.

But he has responded magnificently – kicking superbly, breaking the line frequently and dazzling fans with his distribution.

Should we be surprised?

Yes and no.

Cronje was somewhat of a prodigy at age-group level and a Junior Springbok.

The fact that so many prominent sides took a chance on him previously also suggests they saw something in him.

Cronje certainly can’t be considered a world-beater.

In fact, we can’t be sure if the man from Bloemfontein has suddenly realised his hidden talent or if he’s merely having the season of his life.

However, it’s crucial that he be included in the Bok group and there’s a very simple reason for that.

Coetzee is in a position where short-term results matter.

The axe is, apparently, still hanging over him and needs to win the series against France to secure his future.

Surely then it’s only rational to pick South Africa’s only red-hot flyhalf in Super Rugby to date?

One can never underestimate the short-term benefits of picking a player who’s in the form of his life.

So, even if Cronje is only part of a national squad for three Tests his entire career, it would still be worth it.

Picking him isn’t cheapening the Bok jersey.

It will be about making due with what’s at your disposal.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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