SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has defended his choices for his first squad as former Boks slammed him yesterday for picking only three Stormers players.
Social media has been buzzing with angry comments from fans at the exclusion from the squad of top Stormers players such as star flank Siya Kolisi, after the Stormers topped the South African conference in Super Rugby, beating the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
The exclusion of backline players Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon from the 32-man squad to take on England has also been criticised.
There are 13 Bulls players and 12 Sharks players in the Springbok squad.
Former Bok flank Rob Louw told the Cape Times yesterday that he was “absolutely disgusted” with the way that Stormers players were being treated.
“It worries me that the first step taken by Heyneke Meyer is … I can’t believe that he could’ve taken this step. I feel sorry for the players who have been chosen. It’s not fair on them,” he said.
“The selectors haven’t gone on form, because those players haven’t had form.
“The Bulls have lost three games in a row, so how could they have picked that whole backline of the Bulls? They lost two games overseas, and were lucky to win the other two.
“I think there’s a lot of bias involved in the whole situation up there.
“Guys like Juan de Jongh, Siya Kolisi and Gio Aplon must be very upset that they are not in the side.
“And what about (Cheetahs flank Heinrich) Brüssow? He is one of the world’s six best flanks, and suddenly he is not in the squad.”
Louw felt that Meyer had shown his hand and was going to get the Boks to play “stampkar rugby”. “I’m very disappointed”.
Ex-Bok wing Breyton Paulse told the Cape Times yesterday that Kolisi had proven himself consistently this season.
“It is not as if Siya is now suddenly starting to play well. He had a Man-of-the-Match
performance at Loftus, and he made the difference in the game by hitting that gap and passing inside to Bryan to score the try.
“If he hadn’t done that, the Stormers may not have won that game,” he said. “What I actually like about Siya is his physicality – he doesn’t stand back and took the Bulls on.
“He kept the guys busy – guys like Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter. He made his tackles, he was everywhere on the field. He definitely has a bright future ahead of him, and I think that the quicker Heyneke brings him in, the better.
“Also, what a great opportunity to give such a guy a chance if we talk about transformation in rugby, as he would be there on merit.”
There are eight black players in the 32-man squad.
Paulse said that De Jongh was an experienced Test player, while the man chosen ahead of him – Bulls youngster JJ Engelbrecht – was “more of a wing”. “I think Heyneke is in a very difficult situation. He has very little time to prepare the team, so he is taking guys who he is familiar with – who are obviously the Bulls guys. He has a lot of confidence in what they can do for him.”
Ex-Bok captain Corné Krige also thought Kolisi, De Jongh and Aplon were unlucky not to make the squad, and said that Brüssow should also have made the cut.
“I think it’s a good squad, but there are a couple of big shocks.
“I mean, for me, probably the biggest two are Gio Aplon and Heinrich Brüssow. Heinrich is an integral part of the team, especially with experienced guys out like Schalk and Duane Vermeulen. I thought Heinrich would definitely be in the squad.
“He’s got 13 Bulls in the side and the whole management team is Bulls, so he is obviously surrounding himself with people he is comfortable with. And that is understandable.
“That is what any Springbok coach does. When Nick Mallett was coach, he had more Stormers.”
Meyer said at a press conference at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night that he “didn’t count” how many players came from each Super Rugby team. “I just pick the guys I believe are the best,” he said.
“There are a lot of great Stormers players injured, like Duane Vermeulen, who is a great player, Schalk Burger and Andries Bekker, who is also not around.
“If I pick a team, I need to pick the team that I believe is the right one.”