Why is Siya Kolisi not in the Springbok squad? The young Stormers flank produced yet another outstanding performance on attack and defence in his team’s memorable victory over the Bulls that saw him named as the Man of the Match, and one would’ve thought that he was a “definite” in the 32-man group.
But instead, Heyneke Meyer further reinforced the perception that he is creating the “Bulls Boks” by picking Bulls bruiser Jacques Potgieter instead of Kolisi. Sharks No 8 Ryan Kankowski’s selection was also a surprise, considering he’s barely played this season due to a broken hand, and is currently on the Sharks bench behind Keegan Daniel.
Meyer says he sees a future for Daniel as an openside flank, and wanted Kankowski as a back-up No 8 to Pierre Spies. But why, when Daniel has been in excellent form at the back of the scrum for the Sharks? Anyway, no matter who else was picked among the loose forwards, the omission of Kolisi is unacceptable.
The former Grey High (PE) pupil, who turns 21 on Youth Day (June 16), has been a force for the Stormers this season. He came in cold in that first game against the Hurricanes as a replacement for Schalk Burger after 15 minutes, and hasn’t looked back. His jolting tackles, where he always sends opponents back, long strides with ball-in-hand and tireless work-rate make him an absolute must for the Boks, especially against a big, physical team like England.
His ability to play all three positions in the loose trio makes him an even more attractive prospect, and he has shown without any doubt that he can handle the pressure when the going gets tough.
Meyer insists that he won’t pick someone for the Boks on the back of one good game – and that’s a great way to go about things. But the fact is that Kolisi has had 12 good games, with some of them great. And it was topped by Saturday’s huge effort against the Bulls, where his crowning moment was the break and then pass to Bryan Habana for the winning try.
Kolisi’s youth should also not be used as an excuse for his exclusion, as Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee is just a month older. Coetzee has impressed with his work-rate and ball-skills, but doesn’t quite have the same physical presence of Kolisi.
Potgieter, though, is extremely fortunate to make the cut. A big ball-carrying flank from Port Elizabeth, he failed to make the grade at the Stormers in the past, and while he produced some good performances at the start of this season for the Bulls, he is chiefly a ball-carrier. And even then, ball retention has been a weakness of his in the past, although he has improved in that respect this season. Potgieter is also not known for his work-rate or tackling ability.
Two other Stormers, Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon, were also unlucky not to make Meyer’s first squad. De Jongh can feel especially hard done by as the man picked ahead of him is Bulls utility back JJ Engelbrecht. He is a specialist left wing, but is being moulded into a centre at the Bulls. Now Meyer explained that Engelbrecht “could become a world-class outside centre”, and that he wants to work with him.
But you don’t mould players at Test level. Engelbrecht needs to produce in Super Rugby first before wearing the green-and-gold. While De Jongh hasn’t quite reached the heights of the last few years, he is still a solid defender and has good footwork, and is arguably the best specialist outside centre in South Africa. Meyer’s plan is to pick Jean de Villiers at No 13 alongside Frans Steyn for Saturday’s first Test. And, in another Bulls-related issue, what is Wynand Olivier still doing in a Bok set-up after 34 fruitless Test caps?
You are only as good as your last game, and Olivier pulled out his special “pass straight into touch” once more at Loftus on Saturday.
Aplon has lost out to Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo and Bjorn Basson, with Meyer saying that he has picked “the four best wings in South Africa”. While the four wings have played extremely well this season, Aplon’s “X-factor” and utility value is someone the Boks could do with off the bench if they need to change the game. - Cape Times