Columnists 22.11.2017 12:18 pm

When clinging to power outweighs the cause

Jaco van der Merwe.

Jaco van der Merwe.

I see our beleaguered Springbok coach has made it clear he wants to pick his strongest possible team for their Test against Italy on Saturday.

On the one hand I know Allister Coetzee is desperate to avoid any more losses if he wants to keep his job, but on the other it is a clear indication of how far our once proud ship has sunk.

I know all too well we lost to the very same Italians only 12 months ago, but if we are scared of refreshing the team with some new blood because of the possibility of losing to Italy, our troubles are worse than we thought. Traditionally the end-of-the-year tour has presented a golden opportunity for the selectors to blood some new players with one eye on the future, because it’s difficult to find any more suitable time to experiment with new faces.

Take next year for example, England come out here for three Tests which is followed by the Rugby Championship. And then another meeting with England is scheduled on the year-end tour.

If the Boks go in with their best possible 15 against Italy and Wales, if will probably mean that a guy like Curwin Bosch will get another handful of minutes in Cardiff, because as the third flyhalf on tour he’ll probably only get a look-in when Elton Jantjies is forced to return to Japan as the Wales Test falls outside the international window.

That will mean by the time the Boks need to take stock ahead of their three-Test series against England in June 2018, Bosch will probably have around 20 minutes of Test experience. Three minutes against Argentina in Port Elizabeth and another 15 or so in Cardiff should he get any. And he might be one of the lucky ones. As things stand now, exciting fullback Warrick Gelant and centre Lukanyo Am might not get on the field at all.

And even if they do make their debuts as substitutes over the next two weekends, what will a few dozen minutes mean going into next year? Andries Coetzee has been the preferred choice at fullback this year, but what if he carries on his fine Super Rugby form only to pick up an injury and be ruled out for the rest of next year, who are they going to fall back on? Then Willie le Roux will probably come back into the mix ahead of Gelant, because they’ll want to play it safe.

But if Gelant gets two full Tests against Italy and Wales, he might take to the environment like a duck to water. Same with Am. We know what Jesse Kriel can do, why not give him a turn now? Seven out of the first nine Bok Tests of the year are against the top three sides in the world, England, New Zealand and Australia, with the other two against Argentina who are bound to be in better shape than they were this year.

So we should already have one eye on 2018. Now the sensible thing to do here is broaden the base. But that might be expecting too much from a man desperate to cling to power at all costs.

Why does that sound so familiar?



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