If Solly Tyibilika is a merit selection then Santa Claus is for real.
And if the convener of selectors Peter Jooste actually thinks the average rugby fan believes the nonsense he put forward as justification for Tyibilika’s inclusion, then I have overestimated Mr Jooste because what he offered as an explanation was nothing more than an insult.
Tyibilika is not a merit selection, purely by definition of what Springbok coach Jake White has repeatedly told the media constitutes an openside flanker in his national game plan.
White insists that he does not believe in a fetcher. He told us the only two fetchers he knew were his sons, who fetched the beers from his fridge on a Sunday. Jooste must have missed that because he justified Tyibilika’s inclusion on his ability as a ‘fetcher’ and the team’s need for a ‘fetcher’.
White has defended his omission of Luke Watson on the basis that whoever plays openside flank, which White tells us is not a fetcher, has to be physically imposing and has to be a lineout option. White argues that Watson is not a lineout option, lacks height to be an option for a kick-off receiver and is not physical enough to play the openside role.
Watson is 1.85 metres and 102 kilograms. Tyibilika is 1.88 metres and 100 kilograms.
Neither player won more than two lineout balls in the Super 14. Neither is ever used as a kick-off receiver.
Watson was a form loose-forward in the Super 14. Tyibilika could not make the Sharks squad and then could not get a start with the Wildebeeste in the Vodacom Cup. On form the one man is running hot; the other is simply on the run.
Tyibilika was not in the mix for the World XV match, when White used Wikus van Heerden as an openside option. Van Heerden was ordinary against the World XV, but White defended his performance, saying it was one of the positives. He’s yet to invite the player back again.
White also told the media Van Heerden would captain the side in John Smit’s absence. When Smit was out he gave the captaincy to Jean de Villiers. White also said that if Burger got injured then Van Heerden was the obvious replacement. Burger is gone and Van Heerden can’t make a touring squad.
We at least know that Tyibilika will start against Australia as a fetcher. Jooste has confirmed this. Hopefully Jooste will have told White that Tyibilika’s fit to fetch the beers from the team room fridge because White’s teams, according to the Bok coach, have never played with a fetcher.
If Solly is confused in Brisbane, it will be with good reason. White will be expecting him to be physically imposing, to be a ball carrier, to be a kick-off receiver and to be a lineout option. Whereas Solly’s strengths are his pace and not his physical confrontational abilities.
Solly Tyibilika is not a merit inclusion, just like Luke Watson is not a merit omission.
And the more White and his selectors contradict themselves with each passing week, the more obvious the prejudice becomes.