Paarl Gim centre Dawid Kellerman is a glaring omission from the SA Schools squad, writes THEO GARRUN.
The SA Schools team is serious business these days.
There was a time when the SA Schools team announced at the end of Craven Week was something of an honorary side; the star performers, based on the three matches they played at the week, were rewarded, and the team typically played one game against some visiting side, or even against an SA Schools Academy (B) team.
It was fairly easy as a spectator to predict who would be picked. The shiners, the smart steppers in the backs, and the big ball-carriers among the forwards would inevitably get the nod.
That’s changed now. This year’s SA Schools team will be playing in a quadrangular series involving England, France and Wales next month, so there are some serious matches coming up. And, remembering that last year’s team lost all three games, and were humiliated by England, some serious selection is required.
Many blamed last year’s dismal performance on the selection decisions made, so the panel must have thought long and hard before naming this team. It would explain why it took almost a full week to make the announcement – in the old days, the team would usually be released straight after the main game on the Saturday.
So, we shouldn’t get too excited about criticisms of this team. Much of that is usually parochial anyway. And you have to accept that dazzling feet and attacking flair won’t, on their own, guarantee success against England on what is likely to be a muddy field at SACS come 18 August.
That said, there are one or two belters in the side, and one or two glaring omissions.
The missing name that everyone is on about, and I have to agree, is Paarl Gimnasium centre Dawid Kellerman. At a week where, possibly because of the wet conditions, there weren’t too many standout stars, he was the one player that everyone I spoke to noticed. He isn’t injured – he is in Algiers with the national U18 sevens team right now – so unless the selectors know something else that I don’t, his absence is baffling.
There are one or two others who, while they didn’t dominate like Kellerman did, certainly stood out and must surely have been among the top 30. Grey College fullback Richard Kriel and Monument’s Franco Schutte are examples. Sure, there were other good fullbacks and flankers on show, but if it were me calling the shots, those two would have been in my team to take on England, France and Wales.
They weren’t the only ones, but I’ll defer to those who will, at the end of the day, have to take responsibility for how the team performs.
I’m not going to name the surprise choices. That wouldn’t be fair on the boys involved who played their hearts out and deserve the chance to prove that the faith showed in them wasn’t misplaced.
And, of course, transformation principles apply and they complicate things further. There isn’t a single player in the team who I can honestly say doesn’t deserve to be there. But I have been there, and I know that some tough decisions had to be made to get the numbers right.
The three Grey College boys named in the team take the number of SA Schools players produced by that school to 100.
The fact is that the majority of top players are produced by a handful of schools. Selborne College supplies the most this year – five – followed by Paul Roos Gimnasium on four and Paarl Boys’ High and Glenwood with three each.
All the others, bar three, come from schools that have supplied SA Schools players often in the past. The three exceptions are Welkom Gimnasium, Hudson Park and Hermanus High School, who have one representative each.
That’s the way it’s going to be in the future – our top schools have become academies, attracting all the top players. There would be something wrong if the SA Schools players didn’t come mainly from them.
SA Schools squad:
Forwards – Jacobus Agenbag (Grey College, Free State), Adrian Alberts (Paarl Boys’ High, Western Province), Dewald Donald (Affies, Blue Bulls), Tristan Dullisear (Monument, Golden Lions), Jacques Goosen (Selborne, Border), Celimpilo Gumede (DHS, Sharks), Hanru Jacobs (Paul Roos, Western Province), JJ Kotze (Paul Roos, Western Province), De Wet Marais (Grey College, Free State), Mihlali Mgolodela (Rondebosch, Western Province), Keketso Morabe (Welkom Gimnasium, Griffons), Banele Mthenjane (Nelspruit, Pumas), Lunga Ncube (Glenwood, Sharks), Evan Roos (Paarl Boys’ High, Western Province), Sibusiso Sangweni (Kearsney College, Sharks), Jarrod Taylor (Selborne, Border), Uzile Tele (Hudson Park, Border), Emile van Heerden (Paarl Boys’ High, Western Province XV).
Backs – Lionel April (Hermanus, Boland), Thomas Bursey (Selborne, Border), Jurich Claasens (Garsfontein, Blue Bulls), Darren Hendricks (Boland Landbou, Western Province), Stravino Jacobs (Paarl Gim, Western Province), Rynhardt Jonker (Glenwood, Sharks), Muzi Manyike (Jeppe, Golden Lions), Juan Mostert (Paul Roos, Western Province), Brendan Venter (Paul Roos, Western Province), Wyclef Vlitoor (Grey College, Free State), Sibabalwe Xamlashe (Selborne, Border). Mnombo Zwelindaba (Selborne, Border).
U18 International Series:
Friday, 10 August (at Boland Landbou): England vs France, South Africa vs Wales
Tuesday, 14 August (at Hoërskool Stellenberg): South Africa vs France, England vs Wales
Saturday, 18 August (at SACS): Wales vs France, South Africa vs England
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images