• Bullish Marcell Coetzee must be a Springboks discussion

    Bullish Marcell Coetzee must be a Springboks discussion
    (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)

    Marcell Coetzee will not be picked for the Springboks. The current coaches just don’t rate him. Siya Kolisi will be picked. The current coaches will never leave him out, writes Mark Keohane.

    Coetzee was colossal in the Vodacom Bulls quarter-final win against the Cell C Sharks in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

    Kolisi was noticeably absent in his influence.

    Both players know the national situation. Coetzee knows he won’t be picked and Kolisi knows he will never be dropped. It doesn’t mean there can’t be a discussion about Kolisi’s limited impact in his first season at the Sharks and Coetzee’s monumental contribution to the Bulls since he returned to South Africa from Belfast, Ireland.

    Kolisi was my South African player of the season in 2021. He was colossal for the Springboks and he is a player who saves his best performances for the national team, so this is not a point made about whether it should be Kolisi or Coetzee in the Springbok squad.

    This is a statement about pre-determined merits, where no matter what the one player does not do, there is no consequence and no matter what the other player does, there is no reward.

    I understand Coetzee has accepted that while the incumbent Springboks coaching duo of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber are in charge, he will not play for the national team. It is also accepted that Kolisi’s position, as a starter and captain, would never be a discussion.

    The Bok coaches will always justify an omission with a question of ‘who do I leave out?’ But in this case, it should not warrant a question but an acknowledgement. You don’t have to leave out anyone but you you can add someone.

    The Bok coaches will be judged by their results and since taking charge in 2018 Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have won a World Cup, a Rugby Championship and a British and Irish Lions series. For some, they are beyond a question given they’ve won the big three.

    But for others, like myself and possibly every Bulls fan, the question can still be asked, why the disdain for Coetzee?

    It surely can’t be performance!

    Coetzee is the stand out forward in South Africa, in presence and consistency.

    It is one of those unfortunate situations when a player knows that all he can control is his display and the reward will be exclusive to his regional team’s position.

    Coetzee has never publicly bemoaned his absence from the national squad and he has never taken to social media or traditional media to trash talk the national coaches. Each week he just goes out and delivers for himself, his teammates and his coach at the Bulls.

    It is this type of attitude that got the Bulls into the URC’s semi-finals and it is this type of attitude that means Coetzee, at club level globally, always commands interest and gets so many offers. It isn’t quite the same at the Sharks where 10 of their players can get invited to the national squad, but they can’t advance beyond a quarter-final or finish in a top four.

    As it is, the one Sharks player who should be training with the Springboks, No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, didn’t get an invite.

    The 17 players invited to train with the Springboks were predictable in the announcement, but again I felt something was missed in not having Lions flyhallf Jordan Hendrikse a part of the squad.

    I don’t know what Hendrikse gains from a flirtation with the Blitzboks when clearly his future is as a No 10 in XVs.

    Evan Roos was not in the first Springboks camp alignment. Just how he wasn’t is disconcerting but ultimately he got recognition for his performances.

    The Bulls and DHL Stormers advanced to the semi-finals of the URC as the two best South African teams.

    Very few Bulls players will be added to the Springboks squad for the three-Test series against Wales, but the Stormers will have greater representation.

    It is an odd one when you consider the Bulls beat SA ‘A’ or a midweek Springboks XV in Cape Town last year and at Loftus on Saturday beat a Sharks team with 10 current Springboks squad members.

    It should be a discussion but unfortunately it is just an accepted situation – a situation that should never be accepted.

    So, people let’s discuss …

    Mark Keohane in the Sunday Times on South Africa’s European invitation 

    How Mark Keohane and SA Rugby Magazine editor Zelim Nel called a Bulls and Stormers quarter-final win

    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years