MARK KEOHANE writes that Heyneke Meyer’s failure to include Elton Jantjies in the Bok match 23 cannot be excused or justified.
Meyer’s got this one wrong on every level. A coach lives and dies by his selections but the failure to recognise the merits of Jantjies as a player is made even worse because of the obvious issues surrounding transformation – and the illusion that qualifies for transformation in South African rugby.
I don’t want a numbers game with the national team. I am opposed to quotas because it does a disservice to the merits of selections and especially casts doubt on any black player. Jantjies should not have been included because of his skin colour. He is a merit selection in the match 23 and many would make an argument for him to start ahead of Pat Lambie.
The argument that Jantjies was the player in possession of the No 10 jersey can’t be dismissed without examination. Jantjies played the last 50 minutes against the All Blacks and now can’t make the match 23?
Meyer’s loyalty to Morne Steyn is a weakness in the context of the Boks in 2012. Meyer is doing himself no favours and he certainly is doing Steyn even fewer favours.
I’ve always felt Steyn would make a contribution to the Boks, this season, and in the lead in to the World Cup, but his form doesn’t warrant inclusion at the moment and he is a player drained by being overplayed at every level every for the past four seasons.
Meyer is failing to recognise this. Steyn, so in need of a proper break, should not have been on tour. What he offers the Boks is a known entity. Meyer will learn nothing new from Steyn should he play against Ireland. Steyn will not be wiser or more experienced for getting a cameo role against the Irish.
Meyer had the ideal opportunity to evolve the balance of the match 23, to improve the experience of a player like Jantjies and to provide an opportunity for him. All he has done is insult him.
I don’t care what spin anyone attempts to put on it there is no way this selection of Steyn ahead of Jantjies can be defended. It’s not only conservative it’s bloody disturbing, given the issue of transformation and the lack of national recognition for players like Jantjies and centre Juan de Jongh, who consistently have been among the best in their positions in the country.
De Jongh, the player to provide the inspirational and crucial moment in Western Province’s Currie Cup final win against the Sharks, must know now he isn’t rated as the go to guy. He couldn’t have made a more telling case for inclusion, yet he lost out.
So too Jantjies for Steyn.
It’s crazy when you consider it also comes at a time when the Saru administration has given itself a pat on the back that ‘this time after 20 years of unity’ they want to show genuine commitment to transformation.
I can’t believe the president and CEO of Saru did not guide Meyer on this one. Surely they must have had a whisper in his ear and said ‘No Heyneke. There’s nothing to gain here and everything to lose’. Clearly they didn’t or Jantjies rightfully (on merit) would have at least been in the match 23.
It tells me Meyer is blinded by his belief in Steyn because of a provincial affiliation and it also tells me that the game’s leaders have again failed transformation.
This is not about picking a player because it will appease the politicians. This is not about window-dressing. This is about common sense in the context of South African rugby and transformation and more pertinently it is about common decency in relation to the talents and selection merits of the player.
Just imagine Steyn, given his form this season, was a black player. Imagine what so many would be saying if a black Steyn was in the match 23 on Saturday.
There was a time when the absolute racial prejudice within South African rugby appalled me, but now it just saddens me because it is so inherently engrained when no wrong can be seen in the performances this year of Steyn and no right can be seen in those of Jantjies.
What price then for change when it can’t come naturally and from within? Actions make a statement more powerful than any spoken or written word. Meyer in Dublin was in an all-win situation given the talents of Jantjies and his form this year.
I am mystified he opted for an all-lose selection of Steyn, given what he has produced at Test level this year, but I am dumbfounded that Meyer – in his choice of player and explanation to the media and rugby people of South Africa – obviously believes Steyn is an all-win situation.
Meyer says he needed an insurance policy in the form of Steyn. Why?
This isn’t a World Cup final. This isn’t the final of anything.
Meyer talks of insurance policies in picking an out-of-form goal-kicker who this season averaged a less than 60% goal-kicking strike rate in seven successive Tests and in two of those missed goal kicks that would have won South Africa both Tests.
Would Jantjies have been given seven successive Tests in 2012 for Steyn’s return this season?
Springbok rugby in 2012 needs inspiration and innovation. It certainly does not need a dated and questionable insurance policy.