Springbok squad: Where are Lionel Mapoe and Curwin Bosch?


Congratulations to Warren Whiteley on being named as the Springbok captain.

Whiteley has taken the long road to the top, and it’s well deserved.

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Lionel Mapoe has been the top outside centre in South Africa for the last few years. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePixCurwin Bosch is good enough and old enough to be a Springbok. Photo: Gerhard Duraan, BackpagePixSpringbok coach Allister Coetzee has rewarded form in some instances and not in others. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi, BackpagePix

Coach Allister Coetzee made the captaincy decision that he should’ve made last year already, and was adamant on Tuesday that he “felt it was important to reward form players and I’ve done that”.

Largely, he has. Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Dillyn Leyds, Lukhanyo Am, Ross Cronjé, Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka wouldn’t have the cut in the Bok coach’s previous mindset of choosing on experience and reputation rather than form.

And that has seen the likes of Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Willie le Roux, Johan Goosen (is he still retired?), Jannie du Plessis and Morné Steyn fall by the wayside.

But the inconsistency in Allister Coetzee’s selection policy reared its ugly head once more on Tuesday. The first prize in any selection process would be to have in-form players who are also experienced.

Someone like Lionel Mapoe offers that on both fronts, but was inexplicably left out of the 31-man squad and dropped to the SA ‘A’ group. This is the same Mapoe who has dominated Super Rugby for the last three years in one of the most difficult positions in a rugby team: outside centre.

Lionel Mapoe with Lions teammates Courtnall Skosan and Elton Jantjies at the Springbok training camp on Tuesday. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi, BackpagePix

He has been a huge part of the Lions’ growth from being out of Super Rugby to finalists in 2016.

Mapoe is a powerful force with ball-in-hand in midfield, is a strong defender and is 28 years old, so he has been around for a long time.

And, dare we say it, he is black. What more does he have to do to win Coetzee’s approval?

It was a similar situation last year, where Mapoe played mainly off the bench.

Coetzee included most of Mapoe’s backline mates at the Lions – Ross Cronjé, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan and Andries Coetzee – and would probably have had Rohan Janse van Rensburg as well if he wasn’t injured.

And the same applies to Ruan Combrinck, who only returned to Super Rugby action at the weekend, and will continue his comeback for SA ‘A’.

What makes Mapoe’s omission even more puzzling is the fact that there isn’t a clear-cut solution at outside centre.

The promising Lukhanyo Am has been a consistent performer for the Sharks at No 13, but while the 23-year-old from King William’s Town has been outstanding on defence, he can still improve considerably with ball-in-hand on attack.

The Border Bulldogs product is certainly not up to Mapoe’s standard in that regard yet.

Makazole Mapimpi has been an excitement machine for the Southern Kings. Photo: Deryck Foster, BackpagePix

The other possibility at outside centre is Jesse Kriel, but again, we all know his defensive limitations in that channel, and he has played his best rugby at fullback for the Bulls this year.

Of course, Jan Serfontein can do a job at No 13, but he is a much better inside centre, and has already turned down a contract offer from SA Rugby to continue playing his domestic rugby in South Africa.

Frans Steyn is a welcome selection, and can add a lot of value at No 12 as Damian de Allende has been out for months and only came back from injury at the weekend.

But Steyn is also listed as the back-up flyhalf to Elton Jantjies, who is the only specialist pivot in the squad due to injuries to Pat Lambie, Handré Pollard and others.

That begs the question – where is Curwin Bosch? Coetzee said on Tuesday that he wants Bosch to “dominate” at the upcoming Under-20 World Cup with the Junior Springboks.

The same thing was said about Pollard a few years ago, yet he flew straight from New Zealand to make his Test debut for the Boks the week after the Under-20 tournament.

And here is a major difference between Bosch now and Pollard in 2014 – the former has been a mainstay of the Sharks side in Super Rugby, and has been arguably the key figure for the Durban-based side in the absence of Patrick Lambie.

Pollard was not a regular starter for the Bulls in 2014, having worn the No 10 jersey in just two Super Rugby games before making his Bok bow.

Bosch has shown he has the skills to become a world-class international flyhalf, particularly with his goal-kicking and playmaking abilities, despite not being a strong defender. 

And he already dominated the Junior World Cup last year. So, why not include him as the back-up pivot to Jantjies?

While the Under-20 World Cup is important, surely playing for the Boks takes preference?

Steyn will still be on the field if required to help guide Bosch if Jantjies had to leave the field…

Southern Kings star Makazole Mapimpi – who is dynamite with ball-in-hand and stands strong in defence – is also desperately unlucky to miss out as a wing option to Raymond Rhule.

Springbok Squad

Outside backs: Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule.

Centres: Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein.

Flyhalf/utility back: Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn.

Scrumhalves: Francois Hougaard, Ross Cronjé, Rudy Paige.

Loose forwards: Warren Whiteley (captain), Oupa Mohoje, Duane Vermeulen, Jaco Kriel, Siya Kolisi.

Locks: Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert.

Props: Ruan Dreyer, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Lizo Gqoboka, Coenie Oosthuizen.

Hookers: Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle.

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