Bok coach: Garth April’s ‘got the ability’


That was the message from Bok coach Allister Coetzee on Saturday night after the Sharks flyhalf was one of the surprise selections in the 31-man group that will face Ireland in a three-Test series in June.

In addition, Lions No 10 Elton Jantjies will be fit for the first Test at Newlands on June 11 despite nursing a broken finger that ruled him out of Saturday's Super Rugby game against the Bulls at Loftus.

Coetzee picked nine uncapped players, with April joined by Bordeaux prop Steven Kitshoff, Lions wing Ruan Combrinck, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and flank Jaco Kriel, and Stormers scrumhalf Nic Groom, hookers Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni and loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

The new Bok coach said at a press conference at Newlands that he has not yet decided on a captain, but that it would be a locally-based player. "I have a leadership group of three or four players, and I will name the captain in the week of the first Test against Ireland," Coetzee said.

"It will be for the incoming Test series only at this point in time. I said before that I would like the captain to be there to make sure we win Test matches. To name him early, without really making sure he understands my philosophy and is a good extension of my coaching philosophy on the field out there, it would be too early for me."

But it was the 24-year-old April's selection which caught the eye most, as he was playing club rugby just a year ago for Cape side Durbanville-Bellville. Having waited a considerable time to win his first Super Rugby start for the Sharks, April took his chance with aplomb and shone in the absence of Patrick Lambie.

"We've got a Kurt Coleman, Handré Pollard and Robert du Preez injured, and I'm sure that those three players would've been among the squads. Garth April showed tremendous composure when he was chucked into the deep end when he played against Toulouse overseas (in a pre-season game for the Sharks in France)," Coetzee said.

"Garth April is one of those flyhalves who can really take it to the line and also has a good kicking game. I like the way Garth has shown composure as a youngster at 10 in top games.

"And I think it's important to note that one shouldn't be scared to expose your young flyhalves early at that level. Because when New Zealand do it and bring a Sopoaga to Ellis Park and they play against the Boks and they win the Test, then it's really great from the New Zealanders. And we are actually scared to do that.

"This boy's got the ability to do it, and I was never going to select an overseas-based 10 to be a third flyhalf for South Africa. That's how serious we are at SA Rugby to make sure that we do give our younger players an opportunity to come through."

"Garth April, it's so clear. When this guy started for the Sharks, it turned the game around. He kicks well, he's timing on the ball is good. And in all fairness, he actually organises as well as a young 10 and makes sure that he gets options outside and around him. He can manage a game, he can take the ball to the line.

"So we were crying out for flyhalves to be able to take the ball to the line, and now that we have the flyhalf that can take it to the line, now we are wondering about if he's old enough. And you know what, Naas' expression, 'If you're good enough, you're old enough'. And I think he's good enough."

The Bok coach, who looked relaxed as he cracked a few jokes throughout a lengthy press conference, stated that Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh, Seabelo Senatla and Francois Hougaard were not considered for the squad due to Springbok Sevens commitments.

Coetzee said that the Blitzboks took preference in an Olympic year, although these players could come back into the mix later in the year during the Rugby Championship.

There was also a South Africa "A" squad named on Saturday night, which saw a number of in-form Super Rugby players picked for higher honours. The SA "A" side, which will be coached by Lions boss Johan Ackermann, will take on England Saxons in Bloemfontein (June 10) and George (June 17).


Springbok Squad

Forwards: Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Scarra Ntubeni, Trevor Nyakane, Julian Redelinghuys, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley.

Backs: Garth April, Ruan Combrinck, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Nic Groom, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy Paige, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein.

SA ‘A’ Squad

Lukhanyo Am, Francois Brummer, Nizaam Carr, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit, Lizo Gqoboka, Travis Ismaiel, Ntando Kebe, Vincent Koch, Edgar Marutlulle, Malcolm Marx, Howard Mnisi, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Coenie Oosthuizen, Sergeal Petersen, JD Schickerling, Courtnall Skosan, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Piet van Zyl, Francois Venter, Leolin Zas.

Original source: Bok coach: Garth April’s ‘got the ability’