It appears that Earl Rose will not see any game time on the year-end tour. So what is the purpose of his inclusion in the Springboks’ touring squad?
There can be no question that the experience gained from touring with the Springboks and learning daily from some of the world’s elite players will be beneficial for Rose. But an education is futile without the opportunity to apply what has been learned.
While his initial inclusion in the touring party was widely criticised, it serves no purpose to continue lamenting it. However, having travelled with the squad to the United Kingdom, Rose should have been given an opportunity to play, even if it was a limited role.
Unless Rose sees the lush green of Twickenham’s turf in the final tour match, which is improbable, he won’t be able to prove his aptitude for Test rugby prior to the British & Irish Lions tour in mid-2009. And if his selection was meant to gauge his ability to cope with the pressure of Test rugby, why has an opportunity not been created for him? If that was never the intention, then what was?
The explanation that Rose was included to learn and gain experience won’t wash if he is in the Springboks’ plans for 2009. And if he is, he’ll come into the Lions series seriously ill-equipped to deal with the demands of Test rugby. Players will tell you that no amount of Super Rugby can prepare you for the unique challenges posed at the highest level.
If he is not part of the short-term vision, why wasn’t his inclusion delayed to a time when a clear plan has been mapped out for him, rather than make him the world’s best paid tackle bag holder? Is the Springbok team considered a finishing school for the gifted but flawed?
The same argument can be made for Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jongi Nokwe and Heinrich Brüssow. But Rose is the focal point because he was the most controversial pick and plays in a position that has been troublesome for the Springboks.
Among a myriad reasons for Rose’s non-selection could be that he was forced on De Villiers via political intervention. This is not uncommon in South African rugby, and while I’m not suggesting it is the case, history shows that it is not to be discounted as a reason, and De Villiers’s seeming reluctance to back the player.
The biggest loser in this mix has to be Peter Grant, who was widely expected to make the squad, gain some valuable game time and attempt to stake his claim for a spot in the Springbok squad for the Lions tour. He’ll still have that opportunity through the Super 14, but again, that can’t be compared to testing yourself on the Test stage.
With Grant in the mix, Butch James surely set to play some role in the Lions tour and Frans Steyn waiting in the wings, where does Rose fit into the picture? What was the purpose of his inclusion in the touring squad and what is his future with the Springboks?
If there is no immediate future, his inclusion has been a premature and costly exercise.
By Ryan Vrede