April is one of nine uncapped players in Coetzee’s first-ever Bok squad for the three-Test series against the Irish in South Africa. Ruan Combrinck (wing), Faf de Klerk (scrumhalf), Nic Groom (scrumhalf), Steven Kitshoff (prop), Jaco Kriel (flank), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward) and Scarra Ntubeni (hooker) are the other new faces in the team.
The 24-year-old April, who still played club rugby for Durbell in the Western Cape last year, was picked by Coetzee after a few outstanding performances for the Sharks against tough opposition. But his selection was also an indication of a new era for the Boks as Coetzee looks to build towards the 2019 World Cup.
“We’ve got a Kurt Coleman, Handre 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),” the coach 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 young flyhalves early at that level. Because when New Zealand do it and bring a (Lima) 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.”
Coetzee must have been tempted to pick experienced overseas-based playmakers like Frans Steyn, Johan Goosen and Morne Steyn. But it seems SA Rugby is also sending out a strong message to overseas-based players that local talent like April are going to get preference.
“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,” Coetzee said.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Coetzee said he would only appoint his captain before the Boks’ first Test against the Irish at Newlands on June 11.
There are rumours that Toulon-based Duane Vermeulen is the favourite, while Sharks skipper Pat Lambie has also been tipped for the job. And it seems as if Lambie is the preferred candidate, after Coetzee said that the new Bok skipper needs to play within the country’s borders.
“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.”
SA A squad to face the England Saxons
Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Francois Brummer, Travis Ismaiel, Ntando Kebe, Howard Mnisi, Sergeal Petersen, Courtnall Skosan, Piet van Zyl, Francois Venter, Leolin Zas.
Forwards: Nizaam Carr, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit, Lizo Gqoboka, Vincent Koch, Edgar Marutlulle, Malcolm Marx, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Coenie Oosthuizen, JD Schickerling, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe.
Johan Ackermann (Head coach), Chumani Booi (Assistant coach), Abe Davids (Assistant coach)
Original source: It’s ‘so clear’ why Coetzee picked April