In his opening speech mr Oregon Hoskins made a request to all schoolboy coaches to help SA Rugby to break free from our traditional way of playing rugby. He used the phrase we need to stop trying to run through a wall but rather around the wall. Mr Hoskins if you want attractive, attend a fashion show, and sir if you want pleasing, you know where to go. South African rugby is a combination of merciless forward play combined with backs full of magic. "Forwards win the game, the backs determines by how much".
This past Craven Week was characterised by a complete lack of defense and proper tight phases. " I honestly was disappointed with the forwards, especially the tight 5. Most of the props are good with ball in hand, but lack the power to dominate scrums. There were also only very few locks that may make it in rugby in the future" was the opinion a well known selector in WP rugby circles expressed. A total of 1 888 points was scored with 269 tries. The best defender was the touch line and best fetcher the ball boys.
Our opponents we are facing in the upcoming U19 International series is England, Wales, France and Italy. All of these teams competed in underage series during the Six Nations in February 2016 till April 2016. Most of these boys are playing their rugby at academies of super clubs. This series is going to be played in the wet conditions. We saw during the U20 world series the physical superiority of the English side to the attractive side of SA. We can expect these sides to play typical European style of rugby. So expect massive efforts from them in the scrums, line outs and mauls and when the opportunity presents itself they can spread the ball wide effectively.
With all of the above in mind I found some selections made, surprising some even to a point of absolute disgust. Unfortunately boys will be identified in this article below. And by no means do we feel that either positive or negative it is their fault to be part of this article. They attended Craven Week and gave their best, the rest was left to the panel of selectors. A panel supposedly to be unbiased with an eye for talent.
A lot was made of the fact that the selectors attended other matches, festivals and trials in order to be able to make informed selections. And with the selection of all teams a certain level of disagreement will always exist. My biggest concern and disagreement came from the selection of no 1 to 9. Surprisingly the best backs was chosen, with a unlucky boy here and there. Maybe a swop between SA Schools to SA A in a few positions a probability.
Up front is where the major concern is. The WP/Boishaai front row was bullied by Affies and Boland Landbou this year. During their second match at the Craven Week a much better effort, still not convincing, followed but with with the major difference in Liam Larkham as hooker. This boy from SACS showed himself to be a strong scrummer as well as excellent in the loose. His play was rewarded when he was sent on as a replacement in the second half in the final against the Lions just as the Lions looked to take control of the game. I do not imply that he saved the day for WP, but he was very visible and certainly helped stopping the Lions pack to take control. Liam Larkham's omission from both teams is simply astonishing. He was the best hooker at the Craven Week 2016. Their is no way that anybody can, and seems want to defend this error in selection.
The locks as previously said, not a lot of quality players and little reason to argue against or for selection of other players than those selected. I would however move Havenga from the Lions to the SA Schools side. It is interesting too see that both "utility locks/flanks" in both sides comes from the Bulls. Both not first choices at the Bulls on selection but somehow secured more playing time than the first choice players during the Craven Week. Was this a question of the coaching staff not agreeing with Bulls schools' selectors, or instruction from Bulls management as both apparently signed junior contracts with the Bulls? This strange behavior by the Bulls definitely had an impact at the missing out of Phillip Krause in the SA Squads.
This brings us to the loose forwards' selections. The complete disregard of Bulls no 6 is mind boggling. During the game against the Lions he showed that he is not scared to put his body on the line and fought until the last, contesting every loose ball on the ground. In a match were the Bulls was completely overpowered by their Lions counterparts du Plessis was the one player that could walk of the field proud of his effort. In the second halve against the Free State he continued his spectacular display on the ground securing several turnovers during the last 35 minutes. In the recent Super Series and Springbok incoming tour the roll of the fetcher was discussed and acknowledged as one of the vital players on the field. Are we going to miss Regardt this coming series. Yes, go ask the coach of Grey Bloem what he saw as the final nail in Affies' coffin, the moment Regardt was injured and left the field.
Then the selection of WP and Boland Landbou's loosie Athi Magwala must be discussed. This boy is only playing for Boland Landbou's second team. My first question why was he even selected for WP Schools team? This selection is to put it mildly a blatant insult to all coloured and black boys who earned their places in the two SA Schools sides. As said before their is no need for quotas in schoolboy rugby as all players, bar one or two, is the best in their positions and included in the teams on merit. This selection will give to all white boys not selected an "absurd" reason to blame Quotas and rightly so. Philip Krause's and several other names spring to mind as boy's far superior to Athi as a rugby player. I am disgusted that in this day and age selectors are willing to subject Athi as a person to this type of discussion.
Then we come to the no 8 position. How a player like Franke Horn could only be chosen in the WP as an Academy player is simply put absurd. This boy is a machine and although he is only 17 I can see no reason why he had to play second fiddle to Khanya Ncusane at either Boishaai, WP or the SA Schools sides. Put that with the complete omission of Hanru Sergel of Border and the players selected must be seen as very very lucky.
Come the biggest surprise of them all. Seeing the forwards selected SA Schools will need a "complete" scrum half, one that is able to play behind a losing pack. One that can defend like a demon, distribute with speed and relieve pressure off his fly half taking on the role of kicking himself, either attacking or in defense. A Fourie du Preez maybe or the brilliant Deon Carstens. Better describing the reason for my shock in him not making any side I fear I can not.
So to conclude :
- A SA Schools and SA Schools A side that was selected with a few, but serious omissions, according to me. Others will differ from me and rightly so. They will have their reason to do so.
- A superb back line that will take apart the best defensive effort of their opponents, in a split second.
- A front five that will be put under pressure by their opponents, and hopefully be able to stand up to that.
- Loosies that can run any team off their feet.
- A serious shortage of good fetchers.
- A game plan aiming to please with defense and structure playing second fiddle to attack.
- A captain par excellence.
After everything said I will stand behind the chosen boytjies, win or loose. Go out there and make us proud..