CAPE TOWN - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has assured those form players who haven’t been included in the second Springbok training camp that the Bok door “is definitely not closed”.
The training camp in Stellenbosch, the second of three camps, included 41 players in the extended group as the Boks prepare for the international season.
Coetzee, who has recently added Brendan Venter to his support staff as defence coach, said that one of the aims of the camp was to allow him to have a closer look at players he hasn’t had a chance to work with yet, while those players who have been performing well in Super Rugby but didn’t make the 41-man cut haven’t gone unnoticed.
“The training camp should not be seen as a selected squad already, the door is definitely not closed,” Coetzee said at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Monday.
“I’m aware of guys who are playing well like SP Marais, Courtnall Skosan, but I also know a guy like Dillyn Leyds has been playing outstanding rugby and he’s quite versatile. He can play at fullback and wing and he understands the aerial contest. So I’ve got to make sure I choose these guys. But there will be an opportunity for a third camp where I will have these other guys also invited.
“Another thing is that camp also gives me an opportunity to have one-on-ones with the players. They need to know what’s coming and what’s needed to be successful.”
There are a couple of players who have been omitted from the training camp, despite featuring strongly for their respective franchises this season.
A guy like fullback Marais, who has performed consistently well since joining the Stormers during the pre-season, has played a big part in Robbie Fleck’s attacking progress with sniping runs from the back and a game-breaking ability that has seen him create tries with accurate attacking kicks and space-creating passes, while Lions star scrumhalf Faf de Klerk is another obvious omission.
Meanwhile, Coetzee also explained his dubious decision in selecting Sharks scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who will not be eligible for the end-of-year tour as he will be joining the Northampton Saints at the end of the season, and the new 30-cap policy will keep him out of the Bok squad until he decides to play his rugby locally.
The selection of Reinach could be seen a quick fix by the Bok coach, who justified the decision by saying: “The benefit is that it gives me the opportunity to select the best possible team in June.”
Coetzee also discussed the issue of selecting overseas-based players, and said that if he had to select players based abroad, they would have to be monitored in such a way that they meet conditioning standards when they arrive in South Africa.
And while Coetzee admitted that selecting a number of overseas-based players had a negative impact on the team’s preparation last season, he also added that there will be a number of assessments carried out on these players, and that their wellbeing and understanding of the “fundamentals” it takes to beat the French will also play a role in their selection.
“Like I experienced last year, the more you have overseas-based players who only rock up here a week before the time, the more you put yourself under pressure in terms of preparations and team culture. If I don’t have a No 1 in South Africa and he’s overseas, then yes, I will look at that player if he’s also part of the succession plan for 2019,” Coetzee said.
“If you tick all the boxes in terms of your wellbeing and you understand the fundamentals that we’re facing against the French, then yes you will be eligible."
A big positive Coetzee conveyed during the press conference was that a young, locally-based Bok captain, one who will still be around for the next World Cup, was definitely an option. Adriaan Strauss stood down as Bok captain last year.
He also said that sports psychologist Pieter Kruger would help him in finding a suitable candidate.
“He will probably be young if it’s a local captain. And if that’s the route I’m going to take then we just have to make sure to build around this guy so that he’s got many other leaders around him,” Coetzee said.
“Your captain must choose himself. He must be in the group of 31, even in that starting group of 15 before he can become the captain. I am casting the net wider than normal to make sure that it’s not going to be a guessing thing. Professor Pieter Kruger will be joining me in looking for ... not just an emotional thing, but also to make sure that the players we have on the radar have all the qualities.”