Three former Boks on what they think of Allister Coetzee's squad and the appointment of Adriaan Strauss as captain.
Werner Swanepoel (former Bok scrumhalf)
‘Allister has picked the squad on form. We are lacking a bit of experience at scrumhalf, but Faf de Klerk deserves a chance and Rudy Paige was always going to be there having gone to the World Cup last year. I'm excited to see young Garth April there. He still has a lot to learn, but it’s good that he’s in the mix and can get used to the setup. Hopefully Elton Jantjies will be back soon to compete with Pat Lambie for that No 10 position. There will always be players who are a bit unlucky not to make the squad. Malcolm Marx has had an exceptional season with the Lions, but Scarra Ntubeni has performed well over the past two years, so it’s good to see him and Bongi Mbonambi there. It’s a pity about Pieter-Steph du Toit being injured, but that gives Franco Mostert a deserved chance. I definitely think Adriaan Strauss is the right choice to lead the Boks. There had been talk about Warren Whiteley or Duane Vermeulen leading the side, but I don’t think Allister is 100% sure who his starting No 8 is going to be and you want your captain to be sure of a starting place. Adriaan is an exceptional leader, he was able to motivate a young Free State side and the Bulls look a lot better when he is leading them.'
Breyton Paulse (former Bok wing)
‘I'm very happy with the squad, but there are always going to be a few unlucky players who miss out. Malcolm Marx is certainly one of those. He has been playing well for the Lions, but he will get his opportunity with the Boks at some point over the next four years. Franco Mostert thoroughly deserves his call-up in place of the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit, as he has also been in great form for the Lions this season. The selection of Garth April doesn’t surprise me, because he’s done enough to be there. He might not necessarily play against Ireland, but what he will learn from being part of the setup will be invaluable for his career. It’s been a while since most people have been happy with Bok squad selections. What’s nice is that Allister has picked in-form players and if you are playing well consistently you are going to be rewarded. I also like that Allister is trying to bring some pride back to the Springboks by getting players to stay in South Africa and not play overseas. Players who don’t see a future playing for the Springboks tend to leave the country earlier these days, but Allister has shown that he will reward players who stay in South Africa, especially young, promising players who do well consistently. It’s the start of a new era for South African rugby, and the fact that he has picked a captain who plays his rugby in South Africa is wonderful. It’s good for the brand. Adriaan Strauss is a very good choice. He was really good when he was captain at the Cheetahs, and there were times people felt he should’ve started ahead of Bismarck in the Bok side. He’s been around for a while and has earned the respect of his teammates, which is very important. He definitely has the leadership qualities to do the job.'
Joel Stransky (former Bok flyhalf)
‘I like the fact that Adriaan is captain. I have been a little concerned before about having a front-row player as captain because every coach makes changes in the front row with 20-25 minutes left and hooker is one of those changes. But in the modern era, with so many natural leaders, it's not too much of a concern. Adriaan is a super guy, a great player and a great leader. I’m very chuffed for him. I like that Allister's picked his squad on form, and a lot of the younger players are showing real promise. There are one or two positions in which we don’t know who our best player is, but generally speaking, the balance of the squad is good. I liked a lot of what Garth April did with the Sharks. He’s got good temperament and his kicking is outstanding – he won a couple of games kicking under huge pressure. He did show signs of inexperience – he was fortunate that the try he scored against the Chiefs, when he should have passed, came off – but those are things he’ll learn by being part of the Bok camp. There's a big gap between Handré Pollard, Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjies, and the next best flyhalf, so it makes sense to pick a young player who can be developed for the future. A lot of the younger, uncapped players are very likely to be part of the match 23 against Ireland because they are the best players in the country. They are in form, talented and deserve their place and need to gain Test experience. I like Allister’s stance on not picking too many overseas-based players in a bid to keep our best players in the country to improve the strength of our domestic setup and our Super Rugby teams. That will mean the young players in the country come through a strong and competitive environment.'
Interviews by Tyrone Engel
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images