Allow Mohoje time to settle

Oupa Mohoje should be treated as any other Springbok getting his first Test start, writes MARK KEOHANE.

The Springbok team is a finishing school and not a learning one. There should be no fuss about Oupa Mohoje’s selection. The national coach obviously feels he is good enough.

Players get chosen to represent South Africa on the basis of potential or good form. Some make an instant impression. Some make a seamless transition to Test rugby. Some take longer to settle and some never make it.

There are many who don’t make it past a Test or two because it becomes obvious they aren’t good enough.

So much has to do with the coach. Does he back the player? Does he hand pick the game for the player? Does he show faith in the player, regardless of performance? Does he get the timing of the selection right?

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer believes he has got the timing of the selection of Mohoje right. He believes he has got the right match for Mohoje and he believes in the player.

That’s what Meyer is telling the world media. That's what Meyer is telling the player and by all accounts that's what Meyer believes.

Mohoje has been in the Bok squad since the start of the season but his game time has been limited to a few minutes against Scotland. He lost out in selection to other loose forwards, most notably in recent weeks to veteran Juan Smith, for the Test in Salta and in the match 23 against the All Blacks to the then uncapped Warren Whiteley.

Now he gets his opportunity, but it would be a crime to suggest this is his one and only opportunity.

Mohoje is just another Springbok getting his first Test start and he should be treated as any other Springbok getting his first Test start. Colour should not be a consideration in his assessment.

He should be judged on his performance and on his rugby ability, as should every other player involved in Saturday’s Test.

I thought Mohoje was a political selection a few months ago. Meyer said he wasn’t and that he had impressed sufficiently at Super Rugby level and that the player was good enough to start for the Springboks.

Well, the Bok coach has now been true to his word and given him the start.

May Mohoje prosper against the Wallabies and add more depth to the talented (if injured) pool of loose-forward talent within the Bok squad.

Mohoje should be allowed to settle and he should also be allowed to show off all those first-Test start nerves we have seen from so many Springboks over the course of 100 years – many of whom have gone on to play many Tests and become some of the best to wear the jersey.

The focus, if it has to be on an individual, should be on Francois Hougaard’s performance at scrumhalf. How many more minutes does he need to settle as a Test No 9?

There has been an investment in Hougaard for the past five years as the successor to Fourie du Preez. Hougaard, used on the wing and at scrumhalf, has never convinced at No 9 and has never assumed the role so neatly set out for him.

He has yet to flourish as a Test scrumhalf and if any player should be feeling the heat it's the man wearing No 9 and not a loose forward starting for the Boks for the first time.

Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix