Ivan van Zyl’s unexpected promotion as the Blue Bulls’ skipper for Saturday’s Currie Cup derby against the Golden Lions is merely another chapter in what has become a confusing, damaging saga.
The 24-year-old scrumhalf and his teammate, Embrose Papier, both became Springboks in 2018 and looked set to provide intense competition for each other this season.
Instead, Bulls team management’s muddled rotation policy has seen them tumble down the national pecking order.
Nothing illustrates that confusion better than Van Zyl being handed the captaincy after not even making the match-23 the previous two weeks.
It’s a situation that’s a concern for former Springbok halfback Werner Swanepoel.
“The Bulls’ selection policy this year has done more damage to Ivan and Embrose’s confidence than improving it,” the 46-year-old, who played in 20 Tests and represented South Africa at the 1999 World Cup, said on Thursday.
“We’ve had various situations this season where the two haven’t even been included in match squads.”
Swanepoel rightly points out that Bok coach Rassie Erasmus probably had hoped to cultivate a battle similar to the All Blacks’ Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara, who both keep each other on their toes without dropping standards.
That said, the Kiwi duo play for different franchises in Super Rugby.
Nonetheless, it seems Human became too eager to exercise that privilege.
“I’ve got no problem with rotation in general, but a players needs to know where he stands and what’s expected of him,” said Swanepoel.
“The problem with rotating at halfback is that No 9 and 10 are vital positions. And because those positions are so intricate, a player can easily become quite confused. You’re playing one week, the next you’re not and then you’re back.
“Unfortunately, every position in rugby is still predicated on momentum. Consistent game-time is still the best way to grow. If you’re not performing well enough, then it’s fine to be dropped, but you at least need a fair run initially.”
Papier and Van Zyl’s loss though has become the exciting Herschel Jantjies’ gain.
“Let’s not forget Herschel. He’s a glowing example of grabbing your opportunities with both hands. The Stormers backed him once he made the starting XV and he grew every week,” said Swanepoel.
“We’ve discovered a gem. We’ve reached the stage where I think Faf de Klerk, Herschel and Cobus Reinach will be our scrumhalf options at the World Cup.
“There simply isn’t any other local halfback that currently comes even close to staking a claim. It’s unfortunate for Ivan and Embrose, but that’s the reality.”