Youthful revolt

Keo, in his Business Day column, writes that the emergence of young talent in this year’s Absa Currie Cup has been a revelation.

For Jake White’s 24 contracted Springboks this week will include an introduction to French lessons. For the rest of the country’s premier players the lessons will be about rugby as the Currie Cup league season climaxes.

The biggest lesson, though, was in the performances of players on Saturday, performances that proved that one man’s assumption of who is the best is not necessarily to be taken as the last spoken word about what constitutes being the best.

Saturday’s Currie Cup again highlighted that the words ‘leading player’ are very subjective and it also emphasized the folly in White’s wisdom to declare an elite squad of players as the World Cup chosen ones almost a year ago.

Of the chosen ones, only eight featured in the two winning Tri Nations tests. The other 16 were either injured or dropped because of poor form. In their absence 16 other players prospered and the same players showed the value of form in the weekend’s domestic action.

So much has been made about withdrawing 24 ‘leading’ players from the Currie Cup and the noise is as loud because the All Blacks have withdrawn their 22 ‘leading’ players from next year’s first seven rounds of the Super 14. But is the noise justified? Or is it a noise based on the belief that because a national coach views these players as the ‘leading’ ones then the natural assumption is that they are indeed the best in the country?

To illustrate the point you only have to judge the All Blacks three performances against the Springboks this year. When their so-called ‘B’ team played the Boks they won by 18 and 19 points respectively. When their ‘A’ team was finally selected they lost by a point.

So who which was the ‘A’ team?

Closer to home you have the Sharks playing the Bulls at home and conceding 50 points. They did this with their so-called ‘A’ team, while the ‘B’ team won at Loftus earlier in the competition.

On Saturday, the Bulls ‘second choice’ locks dominated current Springbok lock Johan Muller. Heini Adams outplayed Springbok Ruan Pienaar and Pierre Spies gave one of the more complete South African loose-forward performances this season.

Spies, and this point must be emphasized, was behind Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Joe van Niekerk, Solly Tyibilika, Pedrie Wannenburg, Wikus van Heerden, Jacques Cronje, Danie Rossouw and AJ Venter when White selected his initial training squad at the end of May. The Bok coach did not rate Spies in the top eight loose-forwards and was even prepared to play lock Albert van den Berg at flank against the All Blacks in Rustenburg.

Now Spies is spoken of with reverence. Three weeks ago he was ranked 10th from 10 loose-forwards. Now he is deemed the best in the country. It shows up the craziness of picking a World Cup squad 18 months before the World Cup is played.

It also embarrasses White for claiming there were not better players in South Africa than those who lost five successive tests.

There are wonderful players in South Africa and the fact that 24 nationally contracted players have been put in French classes instead of the Currie Cup play-offs means that 24 others get the chance to showcase their talents.

In many respects it is a blessing and not a curse because we are seeing talent that ordinarily may be playing club rugby or not playing at all because of one man’s belief that they are not good enough.

Already in New Zealand they’re talking of Auckland winger David Smith as being an All Black on the end of year tour. This teenage sensation would not be playing if the All Blacks weren’t being rested.

What the modern professional needs to understand is that it is a young man’s game and the moment you take the rest and focus more on French lessons than rugby, the chances are good there is a 20 year-old who’ll crush a few of those older toes on his way through a door that has been left open.

The emergence of new talent in this year’s Currie Cup has been a revelation. If the national coach could actually recognize this it would be another revelation.