The Springbok squad selection again left more questions than it gave answers. One player who wasn’t picked is Western Province’s Nizaam Carr. Hopefully he will get a belated call-up should injury end Jean-Luc du Preez’s tour.
Saturday’s Currie Cup triumph for Carr proved to be his weekend highlight when a recall to the Springboks squad on Sunday would have been just reward for an outstanding domestic season.
Carr is the best all-round No 8 in South Africa but it’s not a view shared by the Springbok coach Allister Coetzee. He preferred the skill set of Sharks No 8 Dan du Preez and the option of a two specialist flanks, who this season have played No 8 for the Springboks.
Once again the media focus was more on who hasn’t been included in the Springboks squad, when the hope was it would be a case of celebrating an all-inclusive squad that rewarded form above all else.
My Business Day column focuses on the Springboks and the November internationals.
South Africa’s tour is demanding and the Test opener against Ireland in Dublin will define the tour as much as it does the South African season.
The Boks play the Irish on November 11 and then face a French team that will either be smarting or hurting from their international season opener against the All Blacks.
November is going to be a difficult month for the Springboks. Italy, on paper, offers the only respite and the Springboks surely can’t lose to a side ranked 15th in the world for a second successive time.
The Springboks are five from nine this season and nine from 21 since Coetzee took charge. There have been improvements since 2016 but the reality is the Springboks still didn’t beat the Wallabies or the All Blacks in 2017. The margins are fine, with two draws and a one point defeat, an illustration of just how fine.
The Springboks, in losing by a point to the All Blacks in Cape Town, won global praise for their character and fight. They were given an ovation from a despairing rugby public who feared for another beating against the All Blacks.
The Boks claimed a moral victory but in professional sport moral victories don’t win championships and moral victories also don’t determine the world rankings.
The Springboks are ranked fifth in the world. Ireland are fourth and the hosts form in Dublin over the past few years has been impressive. They ended England’s unbeaten 18-Test run in Dublin earier this year and have produced two huge matches against the All Blacks.
The Springboks will have to produce a special performance to beat Ireland and then to back it up in Paris a week later.
Coetzee insists he has been true to form in his selections. I’d counter that argument, but we all have opinions when it comes to selection and there isn’t by definition a right or wrong. The consequence of the selection, however, has a right and wrong because it’s the performance of these selections that gets the results.
Coetzee a year ago was defiant after the Boks lost 57-15 in Durban to the All Blacks and stated he had picked the best players. A year later very few remained and when the Springboks lost 57-0 to the All Blacks in Albany, he also defended his selections as being the best players.
Once again the Bok coach is of the belief that those players he has picked are the best. He clearly doesn’t rate Carr and Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who are just two players I’d like to have seen on tour with the Springboks.
I am a huge fan of the talent of Curwin Bosch and have been bullish about exposing him to the demands of Test rugby. Bosch has a fantastic goalkicking game but he needs work on his defence and he needs to be trusted with defending the No 10 channel. Moving him to the wing to negate his defensive vulnerability did him no favours in Durban’s Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province.
It is one thing to defend as a flyhalf and quite another in the nuances of wing defence. Bosch’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses but to try and hide him from tackling will only ensure he never improves that area of his game.
He will forever be a target and considered a weakness until this aspect of his play improves.
The Currie Cup final, won so emphatically by Western Province, exposed Bosch’s defence in a crude way. But clearly the final had absolutely no influence on the Springboks selection. Neither did the domestic form of those players who inspired during the competition.
If there was any significance attributed to the Currie Cup then Carr would have been spending November in green and gold, as would WP flyhalf Robert du Preez, winger Seabelo Senatla and a few others.