Looking at the top try scorers in the Round Robin stages of the 2008 Currie Cup, we see dynamic Sharks flankers Keegan Daniel (9) and Jacques Botes (8) right at the top of the standings. Will either of them receive a long awaited call-up to the Springbok touring side, to be announced in three weeks’ time?
Botes has been a stalwart at openside flanker for the Sharks for going on 4 seasons now, yet has been consistently overlooked for higher honours. His slight frame belies surprising strength and he has pace and skill aplenty, yet has somehow never managed to establish himself as a worthy understudy to Schalk Burger. Jake White quite famously never saw the need to develop backup in a position he never really believed in in the first place and was forced to make do with Solly Tyibilika and (to a lesser extent) Wikus van Heerden, whenever Burger was unavailable to play openside. Such was the extent of White’s bias against smaller, faster flankers that we’ve even seen Pierre Spies, Joe van Niekerk and (most amazingly of all) the brontosaurus-like Danie Rossouw picked at open-side for the Springboks. White eventually handed a single cap to both Luke Watson and Kabamba Floors, with the former still earmarked as the de facto stand-in openside for the Boks. The fact that Lucky Luke hardly ever plays openside at provincial or Super 14 level doesn’t seem to come into it.
Botes, all the while, has gone about his duty uncomplainingly. He plays hard, supports his team-mates, scores his tries and gives the credit to his maker on those almost embarrassingly frequent occasions that he emerges from the fray as man of the match. He is the ultimate team man and it would be one of the great travesties of the game if he is forced to play out his time without being given the opportunity to represent his country. He is a better all-round player than Luke Watson and based on current form, as well as his exploits over the last 3 or more seasons, Jacques Botes deserves a spot on the Bok end-of-year tour to the UK.
Botes’s competition, though, may well come from the unlikeliest of places; his own team mate Keegan Daniel.
Having emerged as a real talent at age group level, Daniel’s relative lack of bulk has seen him struggle to command a regular starting berth for the Sharks in senior rugby. He has always maintained that his superior fitness, pace and handling skills set him apart from your run-of-the-mill loose forward and as such his lack of weight is nowhere near as much of an issue as some would make it out to be. That said, he has really struggled to adapt to the traditional role of an openside flanker and the demands of that position really seem to negate his best attributes.
Daniel has been shifted around a lot this year, but has really started to look the part when playing at number 8. His most recent surge up the try-scoring table was courtesy of a hat-trick against Griquas this weekend, where he played on the blindside in tandem with his good friend Ryan Kankowski. I’m not for a moment suggesting that Daniel is a better bet to start at 7 than Jean Deysel is, particularly not against a far better pack than the one Griquas boast, but there’s an interesting synergy at play that makes Daniel and Kankowski individually so much better when they are on the field together. Even if Daniel is not viewed as a starting option for either the Sharks or the Boks, he is certainly the sort of player who could add massive impact coming on in the second half, particularly if Kanko is in the team.
He’s also about the only guy that Bismarck du Plessis can reliably hit in the lineout!
Given, then, that in South Africa, we have no shortage of big loose forwards, with Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski and Schalk Burger the front runners, it’s by no means inconceivable that place could (and should) be found in a national squad for both Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel. I’m not going to put my money on both making it, but I’ll be quite disappointed if at least one of them doesn’t get the nod.Tweet