At fifth in the world rankings, and needing to make a big statement at the 2019 World Cup, the Boks have to source talent from abroad. It’s unfortunate that we have to, but it’s important that we do, writes JAMES DALTON.
While the dream is for South Africa to be able to rely only on local talent and keep players in the country simply with the aura of the green-and-gold jersey, the reality isn’t such, especially in a World Cup year when we are pressured to put out our best 23.
Erasmus’ recent announcement of a 26-man squad for an ‘alignment camp’, which included nine overseas-based players – most recent inclusions being Cobus Reinach, Rynardt Elstadt, Marcell Coetzee and Francois Steyn – bodes well for hopes of a full-strength squad.
What the Springboks need, further than just success at this year’s World Cup, is to regain their invincibility status. Yet the World Cup and the preceding Rugby Championship can serve as a launching pad back to this status. The inclusion and continued investment in these overseas players can only aid this movement.
The Boks have three Rugby Championship games to show what they’ve got before the World Cup, and while they must surely experiment with a few players who have stood out this year (the likes of Herschel Jantjies for example), they need to go into the opening match against the All Blacks with a good idea in both the coach and players’ minds of the ideal match 23.
This is possibly the most important factor aside from squad selection come the tournament: clarity within the squad selection. Speaking from my experience as a player, when there is clarity within the squad about where players stand with regard to starting and bench positions, there is functionality.
When there is uncertainty, however, there is unrest. Erasmus would do best to quickly identify his selections in key positions, make them clear to the squad and adjust as he goes during the campaign, while maintaining transparency with the squad.
The inclusion of guys like Frans Steyn, Marcell Coetzee and co, can be invaluable to the Springboks’ potential rise back to world-beaters, but their role needs to be clear to them and the rest of the squad in order for them to fire within the set-up. Similarly, our regular starting performers need to have their spots assured, as do our key impact players.
If Erasmus and his team can effectively utilise key overseas players, within a predominantly local set-up, while outlining and defining the roles of each squad member in the short space of time before the World Cup – and maintain these lines of communication throughout – then the Boks just might be on their way to regaining their status as world beaters.
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