Mother Nature to decide on Daniel
15 Aug 2012
MARK KEOHANE writes Keegan Daniel deserves a shot at the Pumas at Newlands on Saturday – if only to kill off his own prejudice about the Test quality of the Sharks captain.
Sometimes you see a player who is exceptional at provincial or Super Rugby level, but never makes the transition at Test level. Often a national coach will say the player is good but not that good to take the step up. Then you get another player who gets the chance, doesn’t deliver and continues to be picked with that same coach saying it is only a matter of time before the player comes good. I am being generic here so I am not singling a coach or a player. Look around the world and do your own math. Every national team has a player you think shouldn’t be there and every squad excludes a player you think at least deserves 80 minutes.
I am among those who have questioned whether Daniel can take the step up. I know he is a very good player. I know he has excelled in the Currie Cup and when leading the Sharks in Super Rugby. But he’s never done it in the way that I think has ‘Springbok Test loosie’ emblazoned across his chest.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t select Daniel at No 8 for the Boks ahead of Pierre Spies, as just one example. And no I don’t have a counter argument for all the times Spies hasn’t produced the kind of imposing performance you want to believe is a given for a player of his physical presence and natural talent. And no it doesn’t make me right. And no it doesn’t mean Spies is any better than Daniel. And I could continue to list the … and no …
It is just my gut goes with Spies and the only way it can ever change is to see Daniel get a go and make it work. I know Heyneke Meyer has always been a fan of Spies and he was always unlikely to select a player like Daniel ahead of Spies, a player Meyer has coached since his U20 days.
But that is why Mother Nature sometimes has to intervene and make decisions the mortals among us never will. Kings coach and former Western Province and Ulster coach Alan Solomons would always tell me that nature often makes the selection call a coach can’t, and never has it been more obvious than at last year’s World Cup when All Blacks coach Graham Henry believed Colin Slade to be the answer at No 10 and refused to accept Mils Muliaina was past his sell-by date. Had it been up to Henry, Slade and Mils would have been starters in the World Cup final and there’s a good chance the All Blacks may not even have made it to the final. Injury ended Mils’s World Cup in his 100th Test and injury also ended Slade’s participation. In their place came the brilliant Israel Dagg and very talented Aaron Cruden. And into the squad came Stephen Donald, a player I would never have picked for a World Cup final, and one no New Zealander would have had as a World Cup priority.
How ironic then that Donald should kick the most important penalty in 24 years of New Zealand World Cup misery and how ironic that Dagg and Cruden should bring an edge so missing with Mils and Slade.
When I first saw Corey Jane play for the Canes I told mates he should be playing for the All Blacks and that his aerial skills and all-round game would make for a better New Zealand back three. Does that make me some kind of soothsayer? Not quite. I also saw Kieran Read and told my mates just how KAK he was after his first few games for the Crusaders. I still remember writing that the Boks have Spies and the Kiwis have Read. That’s just one example of the problems they’ve got. For the one I tend to get right, there’s one that will always be an embarrassing wrong call.
Which brings me back to Daniel. Give him a go and give him an extended go, home and away against the Pumas. And if he is good, play him against Australia and New Zealand. And if he excels it’s another example when Mother Nature has to intervene and kill off the prejudice of the mortals who pick teams. We all have our prejudices when it comes to players. We all have our favourites and sometimes we refuse to see our favourite just isn’t that good and the other bloke is that good.
Daniel would never have played ahead of Spies. Is this a Mother Nature moment?
Something is telling me yes.
No Spies, No Duane Vermeulen, No Ryan Kankowski … Meyer had no choice now. He’s gone with Daniel. Now we’ll know and it won’t be because of a favouritism or a prejudice.