RYAN VREDE writes the Stormers’ selection of Schalk Brits is ethically deplorable.
I’ve lost count of how many times Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has celebrated the depth of talent in the Western Cape. Yet, when injuries, most recently to loose forwards Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi, offered him and other key decision makers an opportunity to invest in that talent, those offerings were exposed as no more than lip service.
That a hooker contracted to a Watford-based club will be selected ahead a local specialist is appalling. What message does this send to young loose forwards in the region? What does it say about the Stormers’ commitment to their mantra – building from within?
I feel especially sorry for gifted SA U20 flanker Nizaam Carr, who was prominent throughout the Baby Boks’ Junior World Championship campaign. Stormers forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot was coy when probed on him not being elevated, offering no conclusive reason therefore. With Vodacom Cup loose forward Wimpie van der Walt (shin splints) and Hilton Lobberts (knee) injured, and talented WP and Stellenbosch flank Yaya Hartzenburg’s form concerning to the coaching staff, Carr was an obvious and, on the evidence of his showings at junior international level, competent option.
The desperation to improve the chances of victory, manifest in Brits’s selection, doesn’t and should never excuse such blatant disregard for the efforts of those who have toiled in pursuit of an opportunity in Super Rugby.
This is not an indictment of Brits’s talent. He is a wonderful player that will add value to the squad, and could well be a match winner. His experience is another boon. I rate him highly, even in the role that he will be deployed – as a back row impact player. But his talent and potential overall contribution is not in question. What is in question is the ethics of the decision makers at the Stormers.
The Sanzar ruling that allows drafts of this ilk must not be spared the criticism it deserves either. It is open to manipulation and directly undermines the promotion and development of young talent at the franchises.
There have been injury-ravaged teams, most notably Australian, that haven’t sought the comfort of a world-class Europe-based recruit (once the European season had ended), instead turning to youngsters and club players to fill voids. In a region vastly superior to most of those in Super Rugby in terms of its playing resources, Brits’s selection is a poor one.
Furthermore, I’d suggest there would be an outcry from those aligned to the Stormers, as well as from the Cape media, had the Crusaders brought in a player of Brits’s calibre – Carl Hayman or Nick Evans by way of example. Vitriol would be spat at the New Zealanders and Sanzar, the latter undoubtedly fielding familiar claims of an anti-South African agenda. Yet the announcement that Brits would be part of the Stormers’ squad has been met with widespread praise. It is a vile double standard.
The Stormers will have only themselves to blame if they lose a clutch of their most promising young players in the coming months. Through Brits’s recruitment they’ve sent a two fingered salute to those who are lower down the pecking order. It is an idiotic course of action for a union who has ambitions of becoming the dominant force in the southern hemisphere.