Snubbed by the Springboks, a dejected Tiaan Liebenberg must now focus his attention on helping the Stormers pack to dominate their Sharks counterparts in Durban on Saturday night, says Matt Proudfoot.
“You can see their frustration and their disappointment,” the Stormers forwards coach told the Cape Argus after Liebenberg, along with several of his teammates, was tellingly omitted from the list of 42 players who will attend the final two-day Bok training camp in Durban from Sunday.
“The only way we can do anything about it is if we perform against the Bulls and Sharks in the next two games,” Proudfoot said. “For Tiaan to go out and try to prove a point as an individual will be destructive.”
The Stormers have physically overpowered the likes of the Sharks, Bulls, Highlanders and Reds this season, but Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth mark just two Cape Town-based players in a group of 22 forwards invited to the Bok workshop.
“The Sharks have been playing well as a team, and that’s why their players get rewarded,” added Proudfoot. “It’s all about how the team performs.”
The Sharks have lost five of 12 matches while the Stormers have only been beaten once this season, and yet the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt and Dewald Duvenage have been deemed surplus to requirements.
Kitshoff, Liebenberg, Malherbe and Brok Harris combined to buckle Sharks brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis like they were empty beer cans when the teams met at Newlands at the beginning of March. And they also asserted themselves against the mediocre Bulls front row combination of Dean Greyling, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Werner Kruger at the end of March.
All four of these Stormers have been overlooked in favour of players they’ve beaten, physically and on the scoreboard, this season.
In defence of Meyer’s selection of a number of Bulls campaigners, he has been given less than a week to prepare the Boks to face England in a three-Test series, and it’s understandable why the new coach wants players who are familiar with his systems.
However, even though few would nominate Harris or Elstadt as leading contenders to start for South Africa in June, snubbing these two Stormers in favour of Lions duo Pat Cilliers and Josh Strauss is a kick in the pants.
As Proudfoot noted, the Sharks have indeed recovered from losing five of their first nine matches to clinch three in a row. But does that justify inviting flankers Marcel Coetzee and CJ Stander ahead of Kolisi who, at the age of 20, has somehow managed to replace injured Stormers captain Schalk Burger?
Meyer is aiming to stick with a high-percentage approach against England, and Duvenage is arguably the most adept tactical scrumhalf in the country. And yet the Stormers No 9 will jet home on Sunday while back-up Bulls halfback Jano Vermaak and Cheetahs scrum-feeder Piet van Zyl compete for a place on the Bok bench behind Francois Hougaard.
Due to the dearth of quality tightheads in the country, Meyer is eager to redeploy Cheetahs juggernaut Coenie Oosthuizen in the No 3 jersey. But young Malherbe will have to wait at least another five months to break into the Bok framework.
Proudfoot has told his charges not to wait for a call-up, but rather to play their way back into Meyer’s plans.
“Heyneke will have a look during the English series. Guys might lose their spots and we’ve got to win these next two games to put ourselves in a position to go all the way in this competition.
“If we do that, then when someone doesn’t meet Heyneke’s expectation, the door will open.” – Cape Argus