The new Springbok coach will have the freedom to select players based overseas, at least for the duration of the 2016 Test season. JON CARDINELLI reports.
At a press conference held in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Allister Coetzee made it clear that he would select the best available squad for the three-Test series against Ireland in June.
Significantly, Coetzee clarified that the players based at overseas clubs would be considered for selection in the coming Test season.
Some of the most senior Bok players are currently plying their trade abroad. No 8 Duane Vermeulen, Bryan Habana (both Toulon) and hooker Bismarck du Plessis (Montpellier) are all in France, while Francois Louw (Bath) is in England. There are, of course, many more South African players competing and excelling in the leagues across Europe and Japan.
On Tuesday, Coetzee said that Habana would not be available for the Test series against Ireland as he had recently played for the Blitzboks. However, others from overseas could be recalled as the Boks start a new four-year cycle.
‘I want a squad of around 30 players for that series against Ireland, and I want to be able to put the best 23 on the field [on match day], said Coetzee.
‘[With regard to the selection of overseas-based players] the status quo remains. If I want to use overseas players, I will have the opportunity to do so.’
SA Rugby president Oregan Hoskins said that the organisation understands why South African players seek opportunities at overseas clubs. The currency in Europe is far stronger than that of South Africa, and players would be foolish to turn such opportunities down.
On these sojourns, players have the chance to experience a new environment and add to their existing skill set. Indeed, many returning players speak about a stint abroad as crucial to their development.
‘We want the coach to choose his best team, but when most of the [best] players are overseas, then it is something we need to look at going forward,’ Hoskins said. ‘We acknowledge that players must make a living, but we also have to put the needs of South African rugby first.’
There have been rumours that SA Rugby wants the next Bok captain to be based in South Africa. Coetzee’s response to the question was vague, as well as to a second question regarding the appointment of a long-term leader for the Boks.
‘South Africans put a lot of pressure on our captain,’ he said. ‘I understand it is a pivotal and vital role, and it’s important that I meet with certain players inside and outside the country.
'I will have to see if that candidate fits into what I want to achieve with this team. The captain is instrumental to winning Test matches. It’s not just about having some good media interviews.’
Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP Photo