Heyneke Meyer doesn’t need three flyhalves for a three-Test tour. He needs Frans Steyn.
Pat Lambie, with a dominant pack on the charge, produced a first class performance at flyhalf in the Sharks Currie Cup final triumph. Next to him a man reminded South Africans that class would always trump form.
Class is permanent and Sharks and Springboks inside centre Frans Steyn produced a performance of the highest quality.
Steyn is a player made for the big occasion and in Cape Town he again delivered in defence and on attack.
Steyn is a world-class player. He has the X-factor and he demands the attention of the opposition.
Lambie and scrumhalf Charl McLeod were good but it was Steyn who was imposing.
There was a definite decision not to include him on the Springboks November three-Test tour because of his lack of game time. That was before Saturday’s final.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is apparently under pressure not to include as many overseas based players and to increase the number of black players touring.
That is why Stormers and Western Province hooker Scarra Ntubeni is being spoken of as the third hooker ahead of overseas based Springboks Schalk Brits and Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Ntubeni is a crowd favourite in Cape Town and has enjoyed a promising season but he is not a Test quality hooker – not just yet.
It is the complexities of South African rugby and the final squad would also seem to indicate the contradictions of South African rugby.
The excuse, if Steyn is not included, will be his conditioning and lack of game time. What then of flyhalf Johan Goosen, who is said to be in the mix?
There is also a push to pick Jaque Fourie, who has been in Japan for the last two seasons and has recommitted to Japenese club rugby for the next three seasons.
I have always favoured a policy that selects the best, regardless of where they are based.
That would mean selecting Steyn and Fourie. That would mean finding a place for Schalk Burger in a touring squad of 32 and that would mean including Bakkies Botha and Eben Etzebeth.
It would also mean not doing to Ntubeni what was done to Ralepelle and so many other black players like Raymond Rhule, who was taken along to carry tackle bags and appease politicians.
South African rugby can’t ever hope to beat the All Blacks consistently or be the number one team in the world if selections continue to be complicated by colour and location.
Pick the best, regardless of colour, culture, club or provincial affiliation and regardless of age.
There is a place in a Springbok squad for the youthful expression of Etzebeth and Pieter-Stef du Toit, and there is a role for veterans like Botha and Fourie.
There is so much strength in South African rugby if all the resources, locally and abroad, are picked but there is still too much nonsense that confuses every selection issue.
Then there is also a coach’s preference and it is at scrumhalf where Meyer’s likely choice of Louis Schreuder and Piet van Zyl as two of the three halfbacks shows up that the Springboks are not a team without weakness.
Fourie du Preez, unavailable for this tour, is without comparison among South Africa’s No 9 options. Ruan Pienaar and French-based Castres scrumhalf Rory Kockott are the next best. Then Jano Vermaak, now playing for Toulouse, and then whatever is playing locally.
Schreuder was awful in the Currie Cup final. Van Zyl was as poor in the Cheetahs Super Rugby play-off defeat against the Brumbies. Yet they are being rewarded for being locally based. If they were any better they’d be playing overseas.
The Sharks in the Currie Cup final proved the value of hardened Test veterans. The best teams are a mixture of old and new, and the Sharks against Western Province were undoubtedly the best team.
They dismantled the home side, who were outthought, outmuscled and outplayed.
Even Etzebeth and No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who have been colossal all year for the Springboks, were made to look more ordinary than extraordinary.
The absolute one-sided nature of the contest was the absence of impact from Western Province’s Springbok captain Jean de Villiers.
He wasn’t a factor because his forwards were not a factor.
The Sharks humiliated WP in a way the Lions did the Sharks in 2011.
The Currie Cup tournament is a feeder to Super Rugby but the semi-final and final remain occasions because of the presence of every available Springbok.
It should be a similar situation when it comes to selecting the Springbok team.