Jacques Nienaber needs to avoid sentimental selections in 2022

Forum » Rugby » Jacques Nienaber needs to avoid sentimental selections in 2022

Apr 22, 2022, 02:13

If Jacques Nienaber stays loyal to his 2019 Rugby World Cup winners for the 2023 edition, the Springboks will have the most ever players who would turn 32 or older during next year in the squad for France.

In 1995 in South Africa, there were no players who turned 32 or older in the Bok World Cup-winning group.

Nick Mallett’s 1999 third-place finishers had one, Henry Honiball, while Rudolf Straeuli’s 2003 squad had three, and Jake White’s triumphant 2007 Boks in France also had three.

Of course, as the conditioning improved over the years, players could withstand the rigours of Test rugby for longer, and in 2011 under Peter de Villiers, four players were in that age category – Victor Matfield, John Smit, Danie Rossouw and Butch James.

That swelled to seven in 2015 under Heyneke Meyer, while Rassie Erasmus’ English conquerors in Japan in 2019 had five players who turned 32 or older that year.

In 2023, there could be a new record of 12 ...

Duane Vermeulen (37), Frans Steyn (36), Trevor Nyakane (34), Willie le Roux (34), Vincent Koch (33), Cobus Reinach (33), Elton Jantjies (33), Makazole Mapimpi (33), Bongi Mbonambi (32), Frans Malherbe (32), Franco Mostert (32) and captain Siya Kolisi (32) all may play in their last World Cup in France.

Last December, England coach Eddie Jones already made a note of this possible development of what many may call a ‘Dad’s Army’, in reference to the nickname given to the English’s experienced 2003 World Cup winners.

In a podcast with former hooker Brian Moore, Jones said: “If you look at their age profile, they are getting older. Whether those players can sustain (their form) for another two years – to the World Cup – is a question.

“You have Duane Vermeulen, who is 35. He will be 37 going into the World Cup. There are a few others in their 30s. They do have a lot of good players coming through.”

Now, having a youngish or older squad is no guarantee of success at the World Cup, of course. But there are some issues that Nienaber needs answers to before selecting his group for France next year, and those could only be found if he casts his net wider than he has suggested he will in 2022.

In a recent press briefing, he reiterated how tough it is to become a Springbok, and that there isn’t much time to experiment with new players with 17 or 18 Tests to go before the World Cup starts.

“We want older, experienced players who are good enough to win the World Cup and then we want some younger guys to push them but they must also have enough experience,” Nienaber said.

“You can’t be sure what you can expect from a guy with under, say, 10 caps. I am not saying he won’t perform well, but with a player who has 20 caps or more, you know for sure what to expect.”

But Nienaber must also be careful not to repeat some of the mistakes made by previous Bok coaches when picking his World Cup squad. Smit and perhaps James probably went one tournament too far in 2011 after playing leading roles in 2007, and the same can be said of Matfield in 2015 (at age 38).

Schalk Brits did his job as a backup hooker quite well in 2019 at 38, but would someone like Akker van der Merwe have made an even bigger impact if he had been picked?

For 2023, there are so many new faces putting their hands up – Evan Roos, Elrigh Louw, Jaden and Jordan Hendrikse, Manie Libbok, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Ruan Nortje … among others.

The two most contentious likely selections for 2023 will be Vermeulen (37) and Steyn (36). If they are still in top form next year, then there won’t be an issue in picking them – but they and other older players should not be there on sentiment.

The new generation could bring a fresh dimension that the Boks need on attack if they want to defend their World Cup title successfully…

Apr 22, 2022, 16:34

This is a big problem of SA rugby or actually the big problem that R&N has....there failure to procure new players fast enough to ensure player depth for the future....it's like draad said in a different post, the way we are going, that all at once almost 70% of our incumbents would retire at the same time....instead of bleeding new talent now when you still have the likes of vermeulen and the boys still there, to guide them into top tier rugby....not only is R&N,s game plan lacking in dimensions, so is there selection structure.

Apr 22, 2022, 18:33

Yep we all know their plans.

If its not broken why tinker or fix it.

Well an old car still moves but not like a new car now does it.

The window to expose younger player into the test rugby arena is rapidly closing and neither R or N seem concerned.

Pity as the quality younger players are leaving the SA shores to play overseas and (perhaps) represent other countries.

Much like the Brain Drain of SA Doctors, engineers and other professionals fleeing overseas.

Apr 22, 2022, 20:46

I have to agree with this. It is probably because Rassie already had one foot in England, so doesn't matter if we get knocked out in the quarters, he has checked out. Niena is just a puppet. Doesn't look like a guy with any original thought.

We need to be blooding at least 15 new guys in the next 15 months.

We need the likes of Rikus, Roos, Dyamani, Pepsi, Jan Henrik, etc in the mix and pushing hard.

This can easily be done, you can have your 1st and 2nd choice to carry the work load and have your 3rd choice coming off the bench to get some game time. Before you know it your 3rd choice has 10 to 15 caps and ready to step in if your 1st and 2nd choice breaks down 

 
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