The Springbok coaches have snubbed Stormers No 8 Evan Roos and Bulls captain Marcel Coetzee. Neither are part of the first Springboks alignment camp for 2022, writes Mark Keohane. It adds even more spice to Saturday’s north versus south United Rugby Championship showdown at Cape Town’s DHL Stadium.
Roos, Coetzee and Bulls No 8 Elrigh Louw have been among the standout loose-forwards in the United Rugby Championship, with Roos’s form in the past month particularly devastating. The young Stormers No 8 also produced an excellent display against incumbent Springboks No 8 Duane Vermeulen when the Stormers beat Ulster at Cape Town’s DHL Stadium a fortnight ago.
Louw’s inclusion is encouraging but the absence of Roos and veterans Coetzee and Stormers utility forward Deon Fourie is particularly disappointing.
Springbok coach Jaques Nienaber and 2019 World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus, in their four year tenure, have remained loyal to a hardened group of veterans and once in the squad, a player isn’t easily discarded.
For some it remains a thankless and near impossible task to get in, regardless of form. Coetzee, the grizzly Bulls leader, who starred for Ulster for close to a decade, fits the bill of a player whose performances won’t get acknowledgement within the national structure.
When a coaching duo wins the World Cup and a series against the British & Irish Lions, they would argue that their selections can’t be challenged. They’d refer any critique to the scoreboard.
But no coach, regardless of titles and success, is beyond being challenged, and my understanding is Coetzee, vocal and outspoken in his interaction with the coaches, challenged them on what he believed was a contradiction in selection policy in 2021. It resulted in a closed door now being locked.
The national coaching duo will tell you they simply don’t rate Coetzee and that they have better loose-forwards in the squad and that only so many can be selected. Once again, they will have their support base who nod AMEN to that.
What is disappointing about the initial alignment squad composition is that Nienaber spoke so enthusiastically earlier in the year about 2019 and 2021 belonging to the archives and that 2022 would be the start of the 2023 World Cup preparations, and that form would be rewarded.
If so, then how is Roos not even in an alignment camp?
Heyneke Meyer, when he was in charge of the Springboks, refused to acknowledge Bulls and SA under 20 lock Paul Willemse. Meyer didn’t pick him in his top 80 players in the country. Willemse left to pursue a career in France and is now among the leading international locks.
Ditto, Ireland’s CJ Stander. Meyer also told him he was too small to play loose-forward when at the Bulls, so off he went to Munster, became a cult hero, earned 50 international caps for Ireland, played for the British & Irish Lions and was considered one of the best loose-forwards in the world before his retirement two seasons ago.
My experience of even the best and most successful coaches is that once they have a view on a player, they seldom are prepared to change it.
I don’t see Coetzee playing for the Boks again while Erasmus and Nienaber are at the helm.
But I am as bewildered as every rugby supporter would be that Roos can’t even crack a nod to an alignment camp, which spells out the next 18 months build-up to the 2023 World Cup.
So much for the bluster about form being a factor.
The veteran Fourie, capable of covering at No 8, open-side flank and hooker, is another who could fulfil a Schalk Brits-type role for the Springboks. He too has been overlooked.
Just 9 of the 46 players on display in Cape Town on Saturday have been deemed good enough to make a Springboks alignment camp.
Stormers: Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Salmaan Moerat, Marvin Orie, Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse.
Bulls: Johan Grobbelaar, Ruan Nortje, Elrigh Louw and Johan Goosen.
The first Springboks alignment camp is in Durban from 10th April to the 12th April.
Welcome back to Cape Town Duane! pic.twitter.com/5bm5sp83Hg
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) March 26, 2022
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