CAPE TOWN – No Makazole Mapimpi, Nizaam Carr, Andisa Ntsila, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster, Jano Vermaak… the list goes on.
Those six players all deserve to be in the Springbok squad for the end-of-year tour to Europe, on merit.
And the first three mentioned contribute to fulfilling the policy of transformation, which SA Rugby have committed to on the road to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
These six players were left out of Allister Coetzee’s squad named on Sunday. Instead, the Bok coach opted for the likes of Raymond Rhule, Dan du Preez, Oupa Mohoje, a currently injured Jean-Luc du Preez, Uzair Cassiem and Louis Schreuder.
All of them have question marks at the moment.
We all know Rhule’s defensive issues; Dan du Preez has just been outplayed twice in three weeks by opposing No 8 Carr; Jean-Luc du Preez picked up an ankle injury in the Currie Cup final; and Mohoje and Cassiem have not played much rugby lately due to injury as well, and were not convincing when they have been on the field either.
The continued omission of Western Province star Carr beggars belief. He has been a consistent performer throughout 2017, and really stepped up his game during the Currie Cup, reaching a crescendo in Saturday’s final at Kings Park.
Carr produced the play of the game when he broke up the blindside from a wheeling scrum – in classical No 8 fashion – and beautifully got through the tackle attempt of Curwin Bosch and offloaded to Cobus Wiese to score.
But Carr did so much other good things on the night, and would’ve been – along with tighthead prop Wilco Louw – a much more worthy recipient of the Man-of-the-Match award than two-try centre Huw Jones.
Carr is a true streetwise operator these days. The 26-year-old mixes his sublime attacking skills with the necessary hard graft required for Test-level rugby.
He already has five Bok caps to his name, and in the continued absence of Warren Whiteley and Duane Vermeulen, Carr would’ve been the right choice for the European tour – especially as he is in the Whiteley mould of No 8s.
Instead, Coetzee will have to choose between the uncapped youngster Dan du Preez and Cassiem, who last played on September 30, when he was injured against the Wallabies.
Cassiem is a quality blindside flank, but doesn’t possess the speed or tactical nous of Carr as a No 8.
And we all sincerely hope that Francois Louw, who wore the No 8 jersey against the All Blacks at Newlands, won’t be played out of position again either.
Ntsila was the best South African No 8 in Super Rugby, but it appears as if because he plays for the unfancied Southern Kings, that his path to the Bok team is blocked.
And it seems that a similar fate has befallen Mapimpi, who just cannot stop scoring tries this year.
He has seven touchdowns in as many games for the Cheetahs to top the try-scorers’ list in the PRO14, while he was joint-third in Super Rugby with 11 for the Southern Kings.
And guess what? Mapimpi has seven tries in the Currie Cup as well!
With Jan Serfontein unavailable due to French club commitments, Lions centres Vorster and Janse van Rensburg can feel unlucky to miss out to the chosen No 12s, Damian de Allende and Francois Venter.
Lukhanyo Am is back where he belongs after missing out in June due to injury, but Jesse Kriel is also a touch fortunate to be picked ahead of the Lions duo and even EW Viljoen at outside centre.
How Ruan Dreyer is still in the Bok squad, only Coetzee can explain. With Coenie Oosthuizen and Wilco Louw the established tightheads, and Trevor Nyakane third in line, what was the need for Dreyer?
Tendai Mtawarira and Steven Kitshoff are the looseheads, and someone like Lizo Gqoboka or Thomas du Toit should’ve been the third No 1, with Nyakane a specialist tighthead instead of a “swinger”, as Coetzee calls him, who can play on both sides of the scrum.
And where’s the Bok bolter? That’s certainly not Am and Warrick Gelant, both of whom should’ve been picked for the Rugby Championship already.
Coetzee missed a beat by not taking a youngster like the electric WP wunderkind Damian Willemse on tour, even if just to get a feel of things at the highest level.
The call from fans when it comes to selection is usually to “pick on merit”, and many add that transformation and quotas should be ignored.
But in Sunday’s squad, both ideals weren’t applied by Coetzee in several instances. So, on exactly what basis was the 34-man group chosen?
For the record, there are 15 black players out of the 34, which equates to 44%.
But transformation is not just a numbers game. It is about providing fair opportunities to deserving players.
That is why picking a black player like Rhule ahead of another in Mapimpi also flies in the face of the principles of transformation...
* Ashfak Mohamed is the Digital Sports Editor of Independent Media.
Forwards: Uzair Cassiem, Lood de Jager, Ruan Dreyer, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Wilco Louw, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Curwin Bosch, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronjé, Damian de Allende, Warrick Gelant, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Rudy Paige, Handré Pollard, Raymond Rhule, Louis Schreuder, Courtnall Skosan, Francois Venter.
Springbok Tour Fixtures
11 November vs Ireland in Dublin
18 November vs France in Paris
25 November vs Italy in Padova
2 December vs Wales in Cardiff