It’s unlikely he would’ve picked them anyway but for the purpose of his side’s Currie Cup run-in, John Mitchell is actually pleased he doesn’t have any returning Springboks to consider.
The Blues Bulls’ director of rugby has maintained he believes it’s unfair on other players to “reward” their form by dropping them for national players and values team cohesion more.
What helped him considerably in selecting his team for Friday evening’s make-or-break clash with the Pumas at Loftus is the fact most of his Boks are nationally-contracted, preventing them for appearing in the tournament.
Handre Pollard, Jesse Kriel and Trevor Nyakane are all on Saru and the Bulls’ joint payroll.
“It’s certainly helpful,” Mitchell said on Wednesday with a chuckle.
“I believe in my experience of promoting cohesion, it sit well in my stomach (that I don’t have to pick Springboks). I’ve tasted success in the Currie Cup before (with the Lions) when making those decisions.”
But it doesn’t mean the former All Blacks coach is cold-hearted when it comes to omitting his national stars.
“It’s obviously important to communicate fairly both ways,” said Mitchell.
“You have to make sure the expectations are also clear on both sides. It’s really not a hassle. Clearly there’s a reason why a player has become a Springbok, so you have to be mindful of that and just manage what is being expected of him.”
Under Mitchell’s new coaching method, it’s also no longer as easy as dropping a “lesser” name player.
With data driving most of his selection decisions, a player who keeps getting picked is one who’s stats is improving weekly.
It’s there in the cold, hard numbers.
“We’ve also got to realise that the guys that have been performing in the Springboks’ absence also need to be considered and rewarded,” said Mitchell.
“After all, it was nice to have last week’s result (a brilliant 64-36 win over the Cheetahs). They guys didn’t overthink.”