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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber must be biased towards South African based players

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber must be biased towards locally based players for the Welsh series. Photo: Mark Lewis/Huw Evans/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber must be biased towards locally based players for the Welsh series. Photo: Mark Lewis/Huw Evans/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Jun 22, 2022

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Cape Town - In the aftermath of the United Rugby Championship final, Bulls director of rugby Jake White was asked whether he thinks the Springboks should pick overseas-based players.

White reiterated his stance that he doesn’t agree with the current policy allowing Bok coach Jacques Nienaber to choose whoever he wants to.

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White felt that making overseas-based South Africans eligible for

Bok selection gives top local players little reason to stay at home, as they can earn big salaries in foreign currency and still play Test rugby – the proverbial have-your-cake-and-eat-it scenario.

But of course, some of those players Nienaber does utilise are among the best in the world in their positions, and most certainly the best South Africans. Here we are talking about Cheslin Kolbe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Handre Pollard and Damian de Allende.

So, I don’t agree with White’s view on not picking any overseas-based player. But I do feel that there must be bias towards South African-based players when there isn’t much to choose between someone playing on foreign shores and another guy performing excellently in the United Rugby Championship.

Stormers No 8 Evan Roos has been outstanding in the Cape side’s march to the United Rugby Championship title. He has proven himself over and over again, earned a number of awards and there is no doubt that he is ready for Test rugby.

Now, especially with Duane Vermeulen having undergone surgery last week and being unavailable for the series against Wales, should overseas-based players such as Jasper Wiese and Kwagga Smith get the Bok nod ahead of Roos? I don’t think so.

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Yes, Wiese was Man of the Match for Leicester Tigers in their English Premiership final triumph over

Saracens at the weekend, and he largely filled Vermeulen’s Bok boots last year. But is he better than Roos? That’s debatable … Both players will have their supporters, and some may accuse me of having a Cape Town bias towards Roos.

But the 22-year-old has been terrific in the URC, showed his loyalty to the Stormers by signing long-term contract last year that keeps him in the Cape until 2025 at least, and has the soft skills to go with the physicality required at the Boks.

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Warrick Gelant is another example. Although he is joining Racing 92 in France now, he has also shone for the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship, and should be rewarded with the fullback berth against Wales ahead of Willie le Roux, who has been playing for Toyota Verblitz in Japan – although he is rumoured to be joining the Stormers soon.

Faf de Klerk is a Nienaber overseas-based favourite, and is reportedly set to play in Japan now that he has left English club Sale Sharks. But what about the likes of Jaden Hendrikse and Herschel Jantjies, who are toiling away at the Sharks and Stormers? They could offer the Boks even more than De Klerk, but they seldom get game time, and the fact that they are playing in SA should see them getting more opportunities.

Such an approach would appease both sides of the argument. If you are undoubtedly the best in your position, you will still get picked for the Boks if you are overseas.

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