Tweak to Bok culture needed

We can either get our knickers in a knot every time a player decides to cash in overseas, says Tank Lanning in his column, or we can accept an economic reality and embrace the next player in line.

Yes it must be pretty tough as the Springbok coach to see the likes of Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Zane Kirchner – your entire back three – head overseas.

But picture the likes of Willie le Roux, Bjorn Basson and Raymond Rhule making merry with the ball given to them by a midfield made up of Jan Serfontein and Robert Ebersohn, who are not just chasing leather because the half pack pairing of Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard are choosing to actually use the ball rather than kick it away!

And this while Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie, Johan Goosen, Paul Jordaan, Johann Sadie, JJ Engelbrecht, Gio Aplon, Lwazi Mvovo and Joe Pietersen all push for places in the side …

Well, it has this chunky ex prop salivating over his keyboard!

Up front it is not as easy to replace experienced players like Andries Bekker and Juandré Kruger, but a Bok pack made up of Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Flip van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira would not take a backward step against any international pack.

This while Jacques Engelbrecht, Philip van der Walt, Pieter Labuschagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, De Kock Steenkamp, Franco van der Merwe, Wiehahn Herbst, Andries Strauss, Chilliboy Ralepelle and Coenie Oosthuizen push for places in the side!

The point being that powerful northern hemisphere and Japanese economies, together with players needing to maximise their earnings in an unpredictable career span, are powerful influences. And are always going to be there … As witnessed this weekend in the Heineken Cup semi finals where 27 of the 46 Clermont and Toulon players (the sides contesting next month’s final) came from outside of France, many from the SANZAR countries.

If you had closed your eyes and listened only to the commentary on Sunday’s Toulon vs Saracens game, you could have been forgiven for thinking it to be a 2008 Currie Cup game! And while Europe are happy to foot the bill, it makes perfect sense for our elderly statesmen (along with a few young bucks these days) to swell the pension coffers.

And we can either get our knickers in a knot every time a player decides to cash in overseas, or we can accept an economic reality and embrace the next player in line who is probably itching to wear the green and gold.

Some say that the horse has bolted and that rugby will soon follow the football model which sees national sides coming second to the rich European clubs … And if so, then so be it, and we pick players from wherever they are playing to play for the Boks.

But I think rugby is a slightly different kettle of fish to football. There is no international season. Players cannot play all year round as they need some sort of off-season. Rugby is not just rugby – Different styles and tactics are employed according to culture and climate. The three nations that dominate the IRB rankings are at least a 12 hour flight from Europe, with time differences also a factor. And currently the rugby culture sees Test rugby as it’s pinnacle with the Rugby Championship, Six Nations, Lions tours and Rugby World Cup forming the arena in which players are judged.

So as per my stance in last week’s missive, I say not only should we pick the players who remain in SA, but also embrace it as a culture that sees us want to play rugby that suits these uninhibited youngsters.

The question that has to be asked though, is do we have the right coach at the helm to embrace this sort of policy?


  1. Hi Tank,

    I see where you are coming from and as it stands almost any international coach would look at the talent South Africa has to offer and be forgiven for turning a slightly green shade of jealous.

    You are right in that South Africa has so much depth currently and I dare say that there seems more talent at the top level than even perhaps 10 yrs back. At some point though I do wonder if this will be on the decline. One way I feel the South African talent machine can ensure the growth of local talent, is to ensure the exposure in all media forms of rugby at lower levels (varsity cup, craven week and also iconic club matches).

    The lure of big money will over time only become stronger, and as most know, a pro sportsman needs to make (money) while they are young, this will put pressure on to make those calls at a younger age than in the past where it was only retiring players who went offshore.

    In terms of a coach, no I dont think that we have the right guy at the helm. The reasons for my opinion range from, no creativity in strategy and game plan execution to a very limited willingness to engage the absolute best people around him. But then again I am willing for him to prove me wrong.

    My money lies on 2 ex coaches who have the foresight and ability to get the job done… but both Nick and Jake have walked over that particular bridge and that right there is an unfortunate thing.

    1. Shot for the comment. Agree re Nick and Jake, but also speaks to the point re the amount of petty internal and general politics that a Bok coach has to endure, and that will continue to shoot us in the foot. Nick MUCH happier taking his SuperSport paycheck and talking about rugby ratehr than coaching … While Jake has had to leave the country to coach … And then we had to endure Divvy … Almost a case of performance despite the internal speed bumps …

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