Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is missing something by snubbing local players when they could do just as good a job as his ‘experienced’ men, writes Mike Greenaway.
Durban – On Sunday, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber spoke at length about the need for experienced players to win the Rugby World Cup in France next year and while he said the door is not shut on players who are yet to be capped for their country, that door is only the tiniest bit ajar.
Nienaber said he had 519 days until the World Cup and about 18 Test matches in which to give his greater squad equal opportunities to raise their hand – each player should have about four matches in which to state his case, he estimated.
He also said that winning the World Cup requires players who have at least between 10 and 20 caps because “then I know exactly what I can expect from them”.
— Springboks (@Springboks) April 10, 2022
So while Nienaber is saying the likes of Elrigh Louw and Evan Roos are in the picture, it doesn’t actually look that way.
And I think he is missing something here by snubbing local players when they could do just as good a job as his “experienced” men.
We understand that winning the World Cup is paramount but there are cases where players such as the Roos and Louw are certainly as good if not better than some of the loose forwards currently in Nienaber’s system, for instance, Jasper Wiese, who plays for Leicester and last year earned eight caps.
It makes me think of a slogan coined in the 1990s to address transformation. “Merit with bias” meant that if a black and white player were of equal ability, the selection should go to the black player.
Well, in 2022, merit with bias should apply to a player based domestically versus an overseas player.
We cannot complain that our best players are being lost to the European leagues when there is little reward for them staying in South Africa.
What is the snub of Roos and Louw saying to them? It is saying you might as well go and play overseas because you have just as much chance of making the Boks there, and you get paid better.
Nienaber and his Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, have a responsibility to promote the game in South Africa. Our provinces need star players to attract crowds back; they need as many current Springboks as possible.
If a player goes overseas, he must know that it will be that little more difficult for him to make the Boks as a result. He must not have a message that makes no difference.
On Sunday Nienbaer spoke at length about the loose forward competition. He mentioned 10 players who have played since he and Rassie took over in 2018, and he also mentioned Roos and Louw. But one name he did not mention was that of arguably the best loose forward available to him, Marcell Coetzee.
Coetzee is an absolute beast, the epitome of a player you want to go to war with, especially a World Cup, and the poor bloke missed out on the 2015 and 2019 events for reasons beyond his control.
If Coetzee continues to play well over the next 519 days, he may just grow into one mighty elephant in the room for the Bok bosses.