He has no qualms when assessing Rassie Erasmus’ 31-man squad that will travel to Japan with the aim of reinforcing and restoring the aura of the Springboks, writes former Bok hooker JAMES DALTON.
The players selected are the best in their positions, both youthful and experienced, they’ve been sourced locally and abroad, and will undoubtedly be full of South African pride when they pull on the green-and-gold jersey.
The omissions of Rynhardt Elstadt and Andre Esterhuizen are, in my opinion, a no-brainer. Rassie sang Elstadt’s praises as he excelled overseas, but given all the opportunity and support he didn’t give South Africa quite the same service.
Esterhuizen has shown – in two seasons – no change to his one-dimensional style of play and continues to blow hot and cold, a trait that cannot be excused at international level.
While I feel Damian Willemse’s time will still come, I question both Willie le Roux’s current form and whether he is a season past it. And I’m hoping that we will see the impact of Frans Steyn ‘the rugby player’, rather than Frans Steyn ‘the name’ – he appears to be trading slightly on aura rather than form.
Having said this, both players have shown what they are capable of before and who else could have been included in their place? With regard to Aphiwe Dyantyi’s absence, said to be due to injury, it’s a disgrace that a professional player would be practising something as unprofessional as doping. If his B sample is to come back the same, he needs to take some serious accountability.
On the subject of accountability: this should be the biggest theme of the 2019 Springboks. They have, under Rassie Erasmus and his management, emerged as a squad capable of winning the World Cup and are probably in the best position to do so since 2007.
While the public looks to the coach and either applauds or nails him, it’s time for the players to front up and take responsibility for restoring what the iconic Springbok brand was in my playing days: feared, revered and f**king good.
We boast both the best starting tight five (when the right combinations are picked, especially at lock) as well as the most depth in those positions.
These are the guys that are ultimately going to lay the platform for success in World Cup conditions, where the game is decided by inches and the dirty work done up front. Our best loose forwards are, for the first time in a while, all fit and included, and the difficult decision between Marcell Coetzee and Kwagga Smith was made for the team through injury. Kwagga now really has the chance to shine.
In terms of the backline, we have developed sound combinations and depth in positions we were lacking before – most notably in the back three, who really are best of breed.
I smile in saying what six weeks ago I wouldn’t have: Elton Janjties finally appears to have come into his own at Test level. We now enter the World Cup with our starting flyhalf in Handre Pollard, who put 31 points past Argentina in his last performance, and his backup in Jantjies looking more capable than ever.
We have been, as a rugby public, so supporting of Rassie, his management, and the team in the last two years’ buildup to the World Cup.
Let all of them now be judged by what they show us during their time in Japan. As I’ve said before, we always seem to be building. With this squad of 31, we now have no excuse but to execute.
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