Integrate; don’t exterminate

MARK KEOHANE, in Business Day newspaper, writes that 15 players get to start but 30 will be needed to make the Boks the best in the business by 2015.

Remember when Bryan Habana got jeered in Bloemfontein? That very same day when Springbok rugby supporters unanimously declared it was time to move on from the player and those social media gurus who so generously and confidently offer all the solutions to South African rugby agreed that the majority of Currie Cup wingers were an improvement on Habana.

The abuse was disgraceful. The immaturity was equally alarming.

Never forget how easily so many were willing to discard the world-class qualities of the player voted the world’s best in 2007.

Remember that day because it is the evil that continues to torment any Bok coach and any search for a winning habit and not a one-off winning high.

Now remember Saturday’s demolition of the Wallabies in Pretoria because it provided confirmation that the Boks can play rugby as good as any out there and that they have a coach who doesn’t embrace provincial bias, racism or rugby from an era believed to be outdated.

The Boks played fantastic rugby against Australia, sustained the intensity throughout and delighted South Africans with the quality of the performance.

Habana was sensational in all aspects of his game.

Bloemfontein wasn’t so long ago ladies and gentlemen.

It really is time South Africa’s rugby public matured in how it viewed the Springboks, in defeat and in victory and that debate does not mean despair and that criticism of a performance does not come with a condition of immediate change and that no Test match is a matter of life and death and that one victory does not provide an all consuming answer and that one defeat does not define the future of the game.

Perspective should be the ally of passion.

Being irrational, being emotional and being stupid does not constitute passion.

There will always rightly be an expectation that the Boks can beat any team at home. It does not mean they will. Similarly there is always an excuse when the Boks lose away from home when the expectation should be that in terms of quality of player the potential for winning away from home is not a romantic notion but something very tangible.

The game has evolved and the consistency to be good enough to win regularly cannot be the responsibility of 15 players believed to be the best national starting XV.

There has to be an acceptance very good South African players have chosen a career path overseas. It isn’t a crime and these players shouldn’t be treated with disdain.

In fact it allows for new players to regularly emerge in our domestic competitions. It improves the potential of what can be produced as a national squad of 30. The new don’t queue unnecessarily and the tried and tested tend to evolve as people because of the overseas experience, improve as players and many don’t play for their country when actually at the peak of their game.

I am going to resist mentioning names because that immediately dominates what is essentially a principle that age and geographics should never be a consideration. All that should be asked is if the player is good enough; not to start against the All Blacks on Saturday, by way of the most pressing Bok challenge, but to start at any time between now and 2015’s World Cup.

There is no logic to making singular investments. The nature of the sport means that the hero of Saturday could twist his knee this week and never play again. Then what?

Youth always brings enthusiasm to any squad. Equally experience brings calm and confidence. Champion teams never have one or the other component. The teams who win consistently over a period of time never chose one as being more important than the other.

There is evolution and not revolution in selections. There is a phasing in and a phasing out and there is mentorship and realism that one victory does not make a summer and one performance does not make a legend.

Do your own exercise. Look at the qualities of every player available to South Africa, in this country and abroad. Look at how good the player is and not how old the player is. Find two players in each position you believe are good enough to start a World Cup final in 2015.

What should be celebrated this morning is that our national player base is capable of producing 30 players of similar pedigree and they aren’t all playing in South Africa.

That should not be confused with enjoying what was a wonderful Bok performance against Australia.

The game has evolved. So too should the attitude of the supporter, the media and the administrator. One off wins must be enjoyed but it should never be seen as a guarantee that one era starts and another ends or that one player stays and another is never allowed back.

The search has to be for 30 players capable of starting a World Cup final in 2015 and not the preferred identity of 15 we hope make it to that final in 2015.