A new beginning: Springbok captain Warren Whiteley smiles during the official team announcement. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix
After winning just four out of 12 Tests last year, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is under great pressure to get the Bok bus back on the road again.

On Monday he named a 31-man squad for the Test series against France.

Independent Media's rugby writers give their views on the Bok squad:


A nice sprinkling of youth and experience and certainly good enough to take on the French – and win.

It is a Springbok squad that will please most rugby fans, so well done to Coetzee for just about getting it right.

He has only picked from overseas where he feels locally there is perhaps a shortage of class and experience.

Thus the recall of Frans Steyn, who will bring experience to an otherwise young back division and who can play at flyhalf or centre, Francois Hougaard, who has not always got a proper chance at No 9 but is a player with real X-factor, Duane Vermeulen, who’ll bring grunt and experience to the pack, and Steven Kitshoff, who Coetzee believes has a huge future ahead of him.

Raymond Rhule is perhaps a little fortunate to get in after some seriously weak defensive efforts of late, while Rudy Paige needs to find his best form quickly.

Up front, all bases are covered, with Coetzee having a number of combination options at loose-forward and lock, while it can only be hoped prop Coenie Oosthuizen finally lives up to his potential.

The selection of Chiliboy Ralepelle is somewhat of a surprise, but he brings experience to the No 2 position.

Warren Whiteley as skipper – spot on and fully deserved!


This Springbok squad selection has, with respect, said farewell to some distinguished heroes.

Huge kudos to the likes of Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn and JP Pietersen, but it really is time to move on, while the recall of Vermeulen is an inspired pick in that he is one of those robust, no-nonsense players who inspires his teammates. But where he is going to play?

His favoured position is No 8, which will surely be occupied by the captain Whiteley.

I think the latter is a natural leader and a genuine people’s person.

The backline to me is short on experience and depth, and that is fine as long as you have a sprinkling of experienced players, and I think that is why centre Frans has been recalled after a five-year absence from the international stage.

That and his intimate knowledge of the French players the Boks will face.

I just wonder if any bookies will take odds on whether Frans actually puts on a Bok jersey next month. Frans played 53 Tests between the ages of 19 and 25 but, subsequent to that, there has been a series of impasses between either him and a Springbok coach or him and Saru. Frans, now 30, is immensely talented but a law unto himself.

VATA NGOBENI – @Vata_Ngobeni

Finally Coetzee has kept to his word about rewarding form in his squad selection.

There is a healthy sprinkling of Lions players in the squad and rightfully so, as they have been the most consistent Super Rugby franchise in South Africa and they play the brand of rugby that Springbok fans are dying to see the national team employ.

There will be a lot of noise made about experience or the lack thereof, but there is no way for these players to get that experience other than by them playing at the highest level.

The appointment of Whiteley as Bok captain certainly came as a surprise as I had thought that Stormers captain Siya Kolisi had done enough this season to warrant a look in, but there is enough of a good argument as to why Whiteley got the nod ahead of everyone else.

Whiteley has proven himself to be a competent leader on and off the field and now it will be up to him to bring that same winning culture to the Boks.

The return of overseas-based players in Vermeulen, Frans and Hougaard is a master-stroke by Coetzee as their experience and expertise will come in handy.

The players are there, now for that game-plan to take the Boks back to the top again.

WYNONA LOUW – @WynonaLouw

First things first – let me just say how thrilled I am that Whiteley has been named Springbok captain.

It’s great to know that Coetzee has gone with someone who can actually lead the Boks from the front (to use a cliché) this time around, unlike his captain last year.

Whiteley is influential and inspirational, and in saying that I’m not even referring to him captaining the Lions, but his on-field performances (again, that is something Strauss couldn’t dream of saying last season).

Speaking of performances ... the inclusion of exciting, uncapped guys in Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Dreyer and especially Dillyn Leyds is awesome.

Something that I didn’t find very awesome was hearing Rudy Paige’s name – he did absolutely nothing for the Boks last year and since he hasn’t upped his game by 50% (which would be needed to justify his selection) with the Bulls, I don’t see him doing anything spectacular this season.

I guess I should also add that there are some players in the SA A squad who I would have liked to see in the Bok squad, like Ox Nche, Uzair Cassiem and Lionel Mapoe.

The same with Ruan Combrinck, but I guess his recent return from injury kind of justifies his omission. Kind of.

DARRYN POLLOCK – @DarrynJack216

The biggest take-away from the announcement was the crackdown on overseas-based Springboks.

Coetzee has named just three players who are still actively pursuing their careers offshore, namely Hougaard, Vermeulen and Frans Steyn, with Kitshoff bidding France au revoir when his season concluded.

The 30-cap rule has not come into effect yet, leaving Coetzee the option to select a host of other more-than-useful options, but his decision to reward local talent should be applauded, and it should also be noted.

By not selecting old heads who have been under the cosh before, and would be more than capable of seeing off a French threat, Coetzee has effectively put himself forward as a coach looking to grow the Boks, rather than winning at all costs.

He has a pretty strict mandate for this series, which is win at all costs, or face the axe, so it is a bold move for the coach.

In those he has brought back, their value is clear, but you have to wonder if the likes of Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach and Lourens Adriaanse (all heading overseas), or Pietersen, Habana, Bismarck du Plessis, Vincent Koch, Willie le Roux, Willem Alberts and Morne, could have aided a little in reaching that winning mandate?

Cape Times

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