Everything should be done to ensure the Springboks are at maximum strength for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
My Business Day Newspaper column is dedicated to how to make this a reality.
The very best South African players overseas are part of the solution to a healthier 2018 Springboks. The best of the best will also make the Springboks more competitive at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
There is no longer a conclusion to the South African domestic season. The Cheetahs and Kings continue to play in the newly expanded Pro 14 in Europe, with the Cheetahs a probable play-off challenger.
Elsewhere it will be everything but an off-season for South African rugby, with more than 300 South African players on duty in Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Japan.
There are many prominent South African superstars among those 300 and there’s also a good portion of players who would never survive as professional players in South Africa.
But there are some very good ones and it would be in South Africa’s best interests if there was mature business-like discussion regarding the merits of these players.
The South African professional landscape domestically is not strong enough for the Springboks to be a top three international team. The Boks, if they continue to invest only in domestic player selections, will be a team whose ambitions will be consistent with the second tier ranking of five, six or seven.
What is primary to any selection? It’s the results of the Springboks.
There should be a revolutionary approach to maximize the best results at the World Cup every four years, and in the interim the best of those in the south and north should make a contribution to the strength of the Springboks.
The conditioning aspect is always the first thing mentioned in opposition to picking overseas-based players. Coaches, like Jake White and Rassie Erasmus, who coached Montpellier and Munster respectively, have told me that the players are not as well conditioned as those in the southern hemisphere. It doesn’t mean they can’t be selected and it doesn’t make them in any way poorer selections to those local based Springboks who have struggled to make an international impression.
Forget player identities for the moment and focus on the principle of selection. Erasmus, as Director of Rugby and charged with the strategy and selections of the Springboks in 2018, can only be in a stronger position if his plans include a few camps up north to assess the conditioning and mindset of players he feels can be an asset at the 2019 World Cup. These camps would follow a similar blueprint to those camps he will no doubt hold with South African players from the Super Rugby and Pro 14 competitions, who are based in South Africa.
I’d envisage the core of the June international squad to play England being from those South African players in South Africa, while the end of year tour in November would have a greater emphasis on those players Erasmus feels could add to the squad depth in Japan in 2019.
It’s about moving beyond the run on XV. The strength of a team is in the match 23 and in having like for like replacements to make up a world-class squad of 30 at the 2019 World Cup.
It certainly is possible. There are also lessons to be learned from the All Blacks’s respective 2011 and 2015 World Cup campaign, when it comes to ensuring veterans aren’t unnecessarily retired but commit to bringing through the next generation within the squad.
I’ve consistently held the view that it should never be an ‘either/or’ situation when it comes to determining who plays for the Springboks. It should be about combining the best of both worlds to get to South Africa’s best rugby world.
Transformation (read quotas) is also too easily bandied about as a reason for the Springboks’s failure. The argument has no merit when 12 of the starting 15 are consistently white players.
There are black players in South Africa every bit as good as their white counterparts. It’s about identification in selection and then playing opportunity.
Similarly, when assessing the merits of those who play up North.