Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, like his predecessor Jake White, simply does not rate Luke Watson enough to select him for the national squad.
Rugby 365 reports that this is the reason why the controversial Stormers loose forward failed to make the South African ‘training squad’ that will face a Namibian selection in Windhoek next Friday, May 29.
De Villiers, in explaining why there’s no room for Watson in his squad, said he does not share the same views as Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus – who this week rated Watson as “one of the best loose forwards in the world”.
The absence of Watson, Sharks scrumhalf Rory Kockott and Sharks fullback Stefan Terblanche – along with the inclusion of Lions utility back Earl Rose and Western Province centre Morgan Newman – caused a big stir when De Villiers released the squad to plat Namibia.
While it is only a ‘training squad’ and by no means an indication of what the Bok team will look like when De Villiers names his chosen few to ace the British and Irish Lions next month, the most significant aspect is not who were named, but rather who were left out.
In this regard the absence of Watson, who earned himself the ire of the South African public with his outspoken views on the Bok jersey and Afrikaanse speaking people, is significant.
But unlike most would expect, De Villiers left Watson out because he does not rate him enough to warrant selection.
De Villiers made no secret of the fact that he rates the Bulls No.8 Pierre Spies and Sharks eighthman Ryan Kankowski higher.
“I don’t want to play games; I want them to start believing in my plan,” De Villiers told the Afrikaans daily, Volksblad.
“Pierre and Ryan are my first and second choice in the position and Luke is under them,” said De Villiers.
De Villiers also expressed his views on the scrumhalf position, where Lions No.9 Jano Vermaak was selected ahead of Kockott.
“I have looked at both, but Jano have showed some promise from a young age,” De Villiers said.
Springbok captain, John Smit, is the only tighthead prop in the squad, which is on par with De Villiers’ stated intention of using the Bok captain as his premier No.3 for the Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
“It is a practice match and not the real thing,” he said of the game against Namibia.
“Things can still change a lot before the series [against the Lions]. But we show trust in John in another position as hooker by selecting him at prop,” said De Villiers.
The match in Windhoek doesn’t have Test status, but the selection of players give a bit away of which players is in De Villiers bigger plan.
Apart from the absence of the Bulls players – who are involved in the Super 14 play-offs – the SA XV will be missing injured stars Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Deon Carstens, as well as Jaque Fourie (who is getting married).
Missing, but not injured, are players like Sharks fullback Stefan Terblanche, and tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.
The other big surprise is the inclusion of Lions utility back Earl Rose ahead of his Lions teammate Louis Ludik – ostensibly as a fullback. Rose’s selection comes despite his season of howlers that cost his team so dearly – even prompting Lions coach Eugene Eloff to shift him from fullback to wing in an attempt to minimise the damage he was doing to his own team in the recent Super 14 match between the Lions and Highlanders.
In another surprise the talented 23-year-old Morgan Newman has been included as one of six uncapped players in the squad of 23 for the Windhoek match. He has a total of only 26 minutes of Super Rugby to his credit, all off the bench, before he made it to the SA Squad – 14 minutes against the Chiefs, ten against the Western Force and two against the Cheetahs, with another bench experience where he did not run on.
Dylan des Fountain and Bok flyhalf Peter Grant who was moved to centre, were preferred to Newman.Tweet