CAPE TOWN - Did Nizaam Carr not deserve a Springbok call-up? If you look at Allister Coetzee’s squad for the End of Year tour, apparently not. And it really puzzles me.
Carr has been immense this year, and when Province kicked off their Currie Cup campaign, the 26-year-old built on his Super Rugby form and looked even better in the domestic competition.
Carr has perfectly blended his well-known portfolio as a very skilful player with the grittier stuff - he didn’t just show his speed, his ball-carrying ability and his linking play this year, he’s also shown that he can bring the physicality when needed, and his solid work on the ground spoke for itself.
But as those involved in rugby in whatever sense will always be quick to remind you - the Currie Cup is far from the ideal Springbok barometer (although those same individuals sometimes forget that notion when they tout players who haven’t even been outstanding in the Currie Cup competition - players who have managed to just do the basics well - as being worthy of a Bok call-up). And that we all know.
Patchy attendances and a seemingly reducing fan interest have plagued the world’s oldest domestic competition this season. It’s been happening for a while now, and it becomes more apparent every year.
Often, when fans get into Bok-selection debates on social media, you see someone saying just because a player looked good in whatever Currie Cup match, doesn’t mean he’s automatically international material (sometimes, though, that person just doesn’t rate the player being discussed).
And that’s true. Just because a player has a solid, maybe even a standout Currie Cup run, doesn’t mean he’ll make a fine Test player, or that he can even cut it at international level.
Like it or not, “Currie Cup star” doesn’t automatically equal “Springbok”. But Carr is not just a Currie Cup specialist. And the opportunity to build on his five Test caps would have been well deserved.
Anyway, instead of going for the Province man, Coetzee opted for the likes of Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez and Uzair Cassiem.
After Jean-Luc injured left the field with an ankle injury in the final, it was confirmed that the Springbok coaching team would confirm Du Preez’s availability and that a replacement would be named if he was ruled out. But at the press conference in Johannesburg on Monday, Coetzee said a replacement would be named on Tuesday.
And with Carr having signed a three-month deal with English Premiership team Wasps, whether he would have been Du Preez’s replacement or not wouldn’t have made a difference. If that was the case, it shouldn’t have come to that, and Carr shouldn’t have had to wait to capitalise on another player’s injury to get his Bok chance.
Now, the Du Preez twins certainly are talented, and they’ve definitely been big presences this season. But so has Carr.
In fact, giving Carr a shot would have given Coetzee the opportunity to have the option of picking a specialist No 8. Yes, Dan du Preez is one as well, but I think that on current form, Carr just offers more at the back of the scrum.
Also, Cassiem hasn’t played rugby in quite some time due to injury and, besides, he hasn’t exactly impressed on the international stage this season. So, I think, Carr could have done with an opportunity.
Just think of the way he cut up the blindside after from the scrum in the Currie Cup final against the Sharks - how he broke from the set-piece, assessed the situation, and put in a strong run before sending a perfectly-timed offload to fellow WP loosie Cobus Wiese to score. Or think of how he confused the Sharks’ defence after another scrum before passing to Robert du Preez to put Huw Jones away for a try. And those weren’t even his only top moments in the 2017 final, those were just some of his best.
So just imagine what he could have done in the Springbok jersey. After all, given his form, he deserves to put his skills on show in the green and gold, not just in the blue and white-hooped jersey.