KSA Shark ©

Xenophobia is the curse of the local game

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :Springboks, Super 14 on 13 Apr 2008 at 10:00

No sooner had the ink dried on my story last week suggesting the Sharks were denying Peter de Villiers a golden opportunity to see Ruan Pienaar develop into a flyhalf, then in stepped the Springbok coach himself to say exactly the same thing in a radio interview.

Was he prompted by last Sunday’s Weekend Argus?

Only he will know, but he was right to voice his concern, for flyhalf is the one position where there have not been a host of South African-born players stamping their feet and demanding attention in the Super 14.

Gavin Rich writes in the Weekend Argus that Peter Grant is the best of them at present, but unless the Cheetahs retread Meyer Bosman moves back to the position where he made his Springbok debut during the Jake White era, there is not much else to choose from.

I would stop short though of criticising the Sharks and other South African teams that have recruited players from overseas.

Someone made the point to me after the Sharks lost their Tongan import to a red card for head butting in their recent match against the Hurricanes that they were pleased he was sent off as “he shouldn’t have been there in the first place, he is a foreigner”.

Our rugby has been rife with xenophobia over the years, and whenever the subject of a new Springbok coach comes onto the agenda, there is a large faction inside rugby who get very uppity at the suggestion that a coach be recruited from outside the country.

Regular readers of this column will know my view that Robbie Deans, or even Eddie Jones for that matter, should have been in the mix as possible replacements for White.

If you want to know specifically who prevents this becoming reality, just remind yourself of who it was who objected to Jones wearing the Springbok blazer during last year’s World Cup.

The former Wallaby mentor had a massive influence on the South African performance, something acknowledged by the players when Bryan Habana presented Jones with his own Springbok blazer.

That some were so small-minded about it was pathetic.

When it comes to foreign players playing for local teams, obviously it would not serve the national interest if all the flyhalves playing for South African teams were from outside and thus not available for the Springboks.

At the same time, however, you have to look at each case on its merits, and look at what each overseas player brings to the franchise he links up with.

In the Sharks’ defence, for instance, it should not be forgotten that when Frederic Michalak was first approached it was at a time when Tony Brown had just returned overseas, and also at a time when there was no guarantee that Butch James would not again succumb to injury problems.

My little plug for a Pienaar switch to flyhalf was after the emergence of Rory Kockott as a dynamic, emerging scrumhalf at the Sharks.

I would not have made the same call this time last year, when the Michalak contract was being finalised, as Pienaar was needed as a scrumhalf.

The problem is, as the Sharks discovered when they had Brown playing for them, the experience and influence the overseas player can bring does sometimes outweigh the drawback of having a local player denied a place in the starting team.

If you asked Shaun Pollock about the big influences on his cricket career, the late West Indian fast bowler Malcolm Marshall, who spent a couple of seasons at the Dolphins, would feature high on his list.

The same would hold true for Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs and company when it comes to Desmond Haynes at Western Province.

Brown clearly brings more than just his playing ability to the mix, and I do remember writing a column two years ago (in fact, it was the Easter weekend of 2006) where I suggested that importing a bit of Kiwi influence, which in this case means work ethic, might be the way forward for the Stormers.

So for me it is a no-brainer, the recruitment of Brown is the best move that the Stormers have made in years.


  • I am actually not that opposed to Pienaar being tried at 10, because he is not the best 9 for the Sharks at the moment…

    I would still prefer him to be used at 15 though which to me, for the last 2 years almost, is where I think he will make a major impact in time to come.

    Let Freddy take Ruan under his wing at 10, let Barritt and Steyn fight it out for 12, Adi and Murray fight it out for 13 and use Stefan Terblanche as the older statesman/pro anywhere in the back three when necessary or when the youngsters lose their head a bit.

    Odwa and JP to occupy the wing positions and Kockett to play in his rightful position.

    Not brain surgery actually.

  • Comment 1, posted at 13.04.08 14:55:01 by MorneN Reply
  • fred is a super sub. ruan is the man to start. but what do i know.

  • Comment 2, posted at 13.04.08 20:08:50 by try time Reply

  • I myself have always wondered why Pienaar hasn’t decided on the flyhalf position. It seems to me that it would be a great position for his style of play. Also, with Michalak in the Sharks mix this season it would be a wonderful opportunity for him to learn the finer aspects of the position and settle in. From the articles I have read on the subject it is clear that Pienaar prefers scrumhalf but with FdP as the Springbok imcumbent and playing relatively well, albeit on a horrible Bulls team this season, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to stake his claim on a unsettled position like flyhalf? FdP is only two years older and widely regarded as one of the best scrumhalves around so if Pienaar wants to cement his place on the Springbok squad in the future it would seem to me that the right thing would be to groom him in the flyhalf position. He’s got the skills and all he needs now is the support from the powers that be in the Sharks and Springboks managing teams to show him the way.

  • Comment 3, posted at 13.04.08 23:56:41 by Lyndy_in_Mtl Reply


Add Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.