South African Rugby had a torrid time in all aspects during the 2016 season for many reasons, as a result of which, the governing body SARU decided to take action and a number of coaching indabas were held as well as various planning sessions. It is well published that South Africa has a quota system in place in which a target number of players of colour are to be selected. However at the end of last week an additional policy was put in place.
After the June series against France the Bokke will only be able to select overseas based players who have notched up 30 test caps or more. The exception to this being that in a World Cup year the coach may select anyone he feels is a necessity to his challenge. This is not a new thing to happen in rugby and one can look at Australia for a comparison. Australians players who are based overseas are eligible for selection if they have held a contract with the ARU for 7 years and have notched up a tally of 60+ tests.
It is common knowledge that the poor performance of the South African Rand makes it extremely difficult for unions both provincial and national to match the lure of the Pound or Euro when attempting to keep their player personal. As such South Africa has seen a mass exodus of increasingly young players to overseas markets with hundreds of players now participating in the various leagues. This was something we only used to see with players nearing the end of their careers and looking to secure their financial futures.
The provincial teams suffer most when players leave for the North as their squad depth weakens and succession planning is severely affected. No one can blame a player however for wanting to look after his future in the best way he knows how. This however meant some action had to be taken and thus the selection policy is now in place.
One has to ask though how SARU settled on 30 test caps, as I feel this is somewhat lenient. At this stage of a test career a player has just started to peek and will be hugely beneficial to the younger players at his union in his mentoring role. Australia’s policy is double that of the South African’s and maybe for good reason. I believe a 50 test cap limit should be imposed as the player has then contributed immensely to the game at home before seeking further opportunities.
Many of the players Allister Coetzee is likely to select have long since surpassed the 30 test match benchmark such as Bismarck Du Plessis (79) Bryan Habana (124) Duane Vermeulen (37) Francois Louw (52). However other players such as Cobus Reinach who is set to leave (10) and Steven Kitshoff (10) and Marcell Coetzee (28) will all not be eligible to play post June except if they return home or if Marcell is selected for two tests in June.
Selection policies are a thorny issue in South Africa and I suspect judgment on this one will only come after June when the policy takes effect and the Springbok performance is judged with or without certain overseas based players. The idea behind the policy is a good one however its implementation and whether or not it is too lenient are still to be seen before a proper judgment can be made. Let’s wait until June to see what Allister has in mind.
Written by Nicholas Halsey