We’re ever so gently nearing Rassie Erasmus’ first match as Springbok coach, and former World Cup winner Jake White has a few words of advice.
Not that his advice is being met with widespread acclaim, because there is something of a mixed reaction amongst rugby supporters, ex-players and journalists.
Jake penned his column for All Out Rugby, which went live yesterday, but before we get to the reaction let’s see what he had to say:
It also seems like the Bok coach will have to meet a 50-percent transformation quota during the season. That is much more realisitic than having to meet a 50% quota in every single Test because injuries, illness and form can disrupt even the best of plans.
The rules that Erasmus will have to play by are based on team performance and the requirements of the Strategic Transformation Plan. I would strive to make the most of those rules to create depth and playing opportunities for black players while trying to win championships along the way – these are the things that the Bok coach is going to get measured on.
The Test against Wales in Washington D.C. falls outside the official window so it’s very unlikely that the overseas-based players will be released for duty…
So how can we work the situation to get the most out of that Test while still giving the Boks a chance to make a winning start to the season, and at the same time ensure we’re ready to host England the following week?
If I was the Bok coach, I’d look to pick a team against Wales that is made up of local players with a special emphasis on those that count towards the transformation targets.
He went ahead and picked his team to square up against Wales in Washington D.C. on June 2:
Siya Kolisi would potentially captain a side that featured Tendai Mtawarira, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Marvin Orie, Lood de Jager, Thembalani Bholi, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Damian Willemse, Raymond Rhule, Damian de Allende, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck and Warrick Gelant.
Looks like Ruan and Lood are your token white guys.
Here’s where Jake veers into dangerous territory:
This team would serve the dual purpose of banking transformation credits to create selection breathing room for the England series, and would also give all of these players a chance to put their hand up on the international stage…
While the one Bok squad is in the USA, a second group that includes SA’s most experienced players is at home preparing for the England series.
That team, at home waiting for the Poms to touch down for the series starting on June 9, is a touch paler:
The team might look something like this: Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Jean-Luc du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard, Aphiwe Dyanti, Frans Steyn, Lukhanyo Am, Sbu Nkosi and Willie le Roux, with guys like Bismarck du Plessis, Elton Jantjies and Curwin Bosch in the training squad.
We’ll start with former Bok prop Ollie le Roux’s take on the matter via Sport24:
[He said] that he understood White’s plan, but said “that is a racist policy”.
“It is a very sharp idea when he says we should give more guys exposure. I understand what he wants to achieve, but there’s only one problem: the one team is white and the other team is black. What he’s actually saying is that the black team is weaker than the white one,” Le Roux said.
Le Roux added that a Test player should be picked on merit.
“And on merit we can pick a very good team, one that is representative.”
Over on Twitter some salient points were being made:
He’s never been afraid to speak his mind, ‘ol Jake, ending off his column as follows:
The reality for the coach is that, whichever way he does it, he’ll have people questioning his method. If he changes the team every week, they’ll question it, and if he doesn’t, they’ll question it.
But it’s no use being overly sensitive about the transformation requirements or short-sighted about the Test window limitations. It’s a case of understanding that, over a period of four Test matches, there’s enough leeway to give players opportunities and also win an important series against England.
There’s no doubting that Rassie Erasmus will be juggling results on the field and transformation targets throughout his reign as coach, so I guess he better have plans in place to achieve both.
Whether or not he heeds Jake’s advice remains to be seen, but can he at least take on the Siya Kolisi for captaincy bit?
Seriously, it’s time.
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