Excuse me, Mr Meyer, sir… but I’m very confused.
Let me elaborate. I’m confused because I can’t understand the way you treat players in (and out of) your Springbok squad. The hallmark of any good coach, I’ve been told, is the relationship he is able to build and the trust he is able to garner among those playing for him. A lot of that, surely, must be built on fairness and honesty and while I’m the last one to accuse anyone of dishonesty without evidence, I’m struggling to see the fairness in your most recent selections…
Let’s start with the thorny flyhalf issue, one that has been debated a lot already. We all know that you see Morne Steyn as your first choice, yet we’ve also been forced to watch him bumble his way through an entire Super Rugby season – and four of the last five tests – without giving anyone even the vaguest glimmer of evidence that he is the best flyhalf in the country. You’ve had two other flyhalves in your squad, in Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjies, yet the former never gets off the bench (supposedly because you “see him as a fullback”) while the latter has been dragged into and out of more Bok squads than he has had hot dinners without ever being given the opportunity to play. In comes Johann Goosen, though, straight into the squad and into the match 22 based on one ropey Currie Cup performance after four months injured, while the other two are out in the cold. Where’s the fairness in that?
Let’s look at your loose forwards, then. You steadfastly refused to pick Heinrich Brussow when he was available, insisting instead on using Marcell Coetzee out of his normal position (this is a trend we’ll pick up on later) in a loose trio that has a very one-dimensional look to it. About the only player in your squad who ever offered something different – Keegan Daniel – amazingly gets dropped (after a test in Argentina when he was one of the few players to look like anything) in favour of Duane Vermeuelen, another who, while talented, has only just come back from long-term injury. Even more baffling, though, is the decision to bring in Francois Louw from the middle of nowhere when Brussow was so close to availability that you could have chosen him instead. It’s not like you can argue that Louw is any closer to match fit than Brussow, by the way, because the UK season hasn’t even started yet. Why is Louw there, though, unless his selection is your tacit way of admitting that you got it wrong and we do need a fetcher after all? In that case, why not pick the best one we have? And please explain why, having opted to bring in yet another big ball carrier in Vermeulen, when we already have Willem Alberts and Coetzee playing that role, you opted to retain the incredibly similar Jacques Potgieter in your squad, rather than the more versatile Daniel? Did Potgieter really do anything in his test appearances to date to make him worthy of another chance, but Daniel not?
Talking of chances, though, I wonder how Francois Hougaard gets away with still being in the starting lineup? I mean, he’s had plenty of chances to show what he can do in his preferred position of scrumhalf and has cocked up every one. So now he gets a chance – a free ride – to establish himself at wing at the expense of Lwazi Mvovo, who has done nothing wrong in his showings to date and has been performing as a specialist wing for the last three seasons. What makes Hougaard so special that he gets more chances, whereas Mvovo does not?
Maybe it’s about experience… could that be it? Do you want to keep Hougaard in the team, regardless of form, because he’s an experienced player? Pity that the same logic didn’t apply to Andries Bekker, then, an experienced player dropped from a dizzy height after one bad test. Funny that the man who replaces Bekker, Juandre Kruger, has a weird thing in common with Steyn, Potgieter and Hougaard. I’m not going to point out what it is, because surely you, Mr Meyer, would be above anything as petty as actual provincialism, right? It’s also interesting, though, that a lack of experience doesn’t prevent Vermeulen or Goosen from being brought straight into the side, Again, one rule for some, a different rule for others.
Let’s get back to this positional mucking about, though. We’re told – repeatedly – by your bevvy of tame journos that Pat Lambie cannot possibly be picked at flyhalf for the Boks because, shock horror, the Sharks occasionally play him at fullback. If you had bothered to actually talk to the Sharks coaches, who have known Lambie a lot longer and better than you do, you could very quickly have worked out that the Sharks actually do see Lambie as their best flyhalf and could have explained the quite tactical reasons that he was deployed at fullback for a few games. Asking those questions and getting those answers, though, may have detracted from the agenda to keep Lambie away from Bok 10, so probably safer to stick with the easy answer of “I can’t possibly play him out of position”. What, then, makes it ok to play Coetzee, Hougaard or even Jean de Villiers in positions other than the ones they’ve filled for their franchises in Super Rugby this year? Different rules for different players, I guess.
Lots of changes, lots of theories, lots of explanations, in other words. But of consistency and fairness, Mr Meyer, I’m seeing little. Let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite in years to come.Tweet