Bok coach rewards form, potential

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The Lions, under Johan Ackermann, have been a class above the rest, and not only has the coach been rewarded with leading the SA “A” side against the England Saxons next month, but 11 players were included in either the Springbok 31-man squad for the Ireland series, or the “A” side.

Two years ago Warren Whiteley was the only Lions player on the fringes of the Bok side; now he and teammates Ruan Combrinck, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Jaco Kriel and Julian Redelinghuys are all Springboks.

And Courtnall Skosan, Howard Mnisi, Franco Mostert and Malcolm Marx are SA “A” team players; and there could have been more.

Dylan Smith, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ross Cronje and Rohan Janse van Rensburg must have been close to being selected, and had injury not ruled out Jaco van der Walt for six weeks he may well have been the “A” team flyhalf. “All credit to the coaches who’ve worked extremely hard to help develop the players,” said Golden Lions Rugby Union chief executive Rudolf Straeuli yesterday.

“Yes, everyone talks about the spirit in the team, the family unit, but the great thing is the coaches have put a structure in place that allows the players to express themselves and play with freedom.

“Many of the players we contracted had been rejected by their unions at the time. We’ve got a small budget, not one nationally contracted player … and now we’ve got 11 players set to represent their country.

“It just shows that form cannot be overlooked. The players who’ve been picked played themselves into the teams.”

National coach Allister Coetzee hasn’t only rewarded current form in his selection, but has given players who have shown tremendous potential a chance to shine.

Here one thinks of the Sharks’ Garth April, who was playing club rugby last year and shone in the absence of Pat Lambie, versatile loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe, promising scrumhalf Nic Groom, prop Steven Kitshoff and hookers Scarra Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi.

The 23-man SA “A” team will be bolstered by four Bok squad members in the week leading up to their first game. They will play two matches against England’s best, the Saxons, in Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.

The Boks will kick off preparations for the three-Test Ireland series in Stellenbosch today. - The Mercury

Original source: Bok coach rewards form, potential

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