I’ll take a loss for change

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

“Every Bok coach has a common goal, that’s the one thing that won’t change from coach to coach,” said Duane Vermeulen when it was his turn at the high table this week. Ja, ja...

“But there are quite a few things that have changed in (this squad’s) game plan, which is based on the type of players you have and how you’re going to use them,” continued the big bruiser of a No 8 who looks seriously happy to be back in his homeland.

Yes-flippen-please!

South African rugby, for various reasons, has become stale and lacking in innovation. We have held onto so called “senior players” - no matter their form - for too long, not embraced young talent, and let the ever evolving All Blacks gain serious yards on us. It is crying out for some new thinking...

And if that means taking a loss or two (or even three!) as the new plan is implemented, I would like to go on record as being willing to take that in the pursuit of evolution.

As long as there is a plan...

Speaking of plans, it was also great to read about SARU’s thinking around managing how we select overseas-based players going forward.

The proposed plan proposes that only foreign-based players with 25 Springbok caps become eligible for the national side this year, with that number rising to 35 in 2017, and 45 in 2018.

The plan could also see players wanting to be considered for selection during a World Cup year having to be based in South Africa and playing Super Rugby.

Coetzee, in his first year at the helm, is understandably a little reticent to go full metal jacket on it, but at least he and the powers that be are now talking about it.

I like the idea of selecting only locally based players given that rugby, unlike soccer, relies on players buying into a national culture. It is also a much more complex game governed by subjective laws implemented differently in each hemisphere, and requires players taking time off each year in order to physically refresh and repair.

But the Rand is not our friend, and players like Vermeulen and Francois Louw do not grow on trees, perhaps having earned the right to play for the Boks while earning foreign currency.

One certainly cannot begrudge players going overseas to earn a living, and apart from making cash, they actually pick up new skills and new thoughts on the game.

But I am not sure we should even be trying to compete with those salaries. One, because we cannot, and two, by offering national contracts, do we not just lock the coach into picking from a closed pool? Would Coenie Oosthuizen by in the SA ‘A’ side if he were not contracted?

Let’s rather offer something completely different - like making an excellent living while living in a majestic country with a sensational climate amongst people who know the difference between a braai and a barbecue! And the ability to play for the Boks if you have earned your stripes.

Like with transformation, having a defined policy in place makes it clear and simple, allowing players, fans and coaches to make decisions based on black and white, not whimsical grey.

It’s fantastic to see SARU not only addressing the big issues in our game, but starting to provide a few solutions. That’s what we need. And as said up front, if that means taking a loss or two as the plans are implemented, then sign me up.

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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