I think I’ve finally managed to find something that Bok coach Peter de Villiers has in common with his predecessor, Jake White. Both coaches seem to possess a seemingly limitless, in fact, almost obsessive, loyalty to the players they’ve coached at age-group level.
White was arguably more outspoken in defence of the policy, at one stage publically questioning Schalk Brits’s Bok credentials on the basis that he had never represented a South African junior side. This latest tour squad selection shows that the current coach’s thinking is very similar and that any player following the ‘low road’ to a Bok jersey will find the going very tough indeed.
Weighed up against the backdrop of the 2009 season alone, one cannot fathom the inclusion of Bandise Maku, Heinke van der Merwe, Alistair Hargreaves or Earl Rose. Currie Cup form has been rewarded in some cases, with Dewald Potgieter, Ashley Johnson, Davon Raubenheimer, Meyer Bosman, Juan de Jongh, Riaan Viljoen and arguably even Francois Hougaard deserving their spots on current form. In most cases, though, you could argue there are other players more deserving of the spot – Liebenberg over Maku, du Preez over van der Merwe and so on, but in each case, de Villiers has gone with the player he’s coached before.
Another similarity to the White era is that it’s seemingly a lot harder to play your way into the squad than to play yourself out. Gurthrö Steenkamp, Chilliboy Rallepele, Andries Bekker and even Adi Jacobs may not be there otherwise. The fact is, though, that the test 22 pretty much picks itself anyway and the other 15 players have been taken along as an experiment.
It’s perhaps somewhat comforting for the likes of Jean Deysel, Steven Sykes and Duane Vermeulen that the selectors don’t feel the need to experiment with them on this tour as they know that they are ready to be called on for the test squad, if required. The alternative is that they’ve simply been overlooked despite playing well for the Emerging Boks not 6 months ago. Seems pretty unbelievable to me.
Now the one selection that I feel is thoroughly deserved is that of Heini Adams, since he’s showed consistently good form over 3 seasons now. I only wish that we could select more players on the basis of form over a longer period, rather than judging them on the last month of the Currie Cup.
One thing that I’ve learned about de Villiers, though, is that he’s definitely the sort of pudding that needs to be eaten, if you know what I mean. He makes some strange selections, but with the benefit of a little hindsight, most prove to be pretty sound in the final analysis. Although I’m not blown away by this current bunch, I’m prepared to see how they go before getting the knives out, quite unlike certain other scribes out there…Tweet