- Marco van Staden's exclusion from any Springbok planning might be puzzling to some, but his Bulls mentor Jake White won't be speculating on reasons.
- A former Springbok coach, White noted that he also had to make unpopular selection choices during his tenure.
- But he insists "Eskom's" motivation is still high to end his Bulls career on a high note as he moves to England in July.
Bulls mentor Jake White opted not to speculate why Marco van Staden, one of his prized assets, has seemingly been given the cold shoulder by the Springbok coaching staff.
The 25-year-old opensider - who has three international caps and was on standby for 2019's World Cup campaign - is widely regarded as the best No 6 operating in the country currently, flourishing under White's regime from the outset since local rugby's resumption last September.
However, Sale bigwig Alex Sanderson's admission that the Du Preez twins, Jean-Luc and Dan, as well as Leicester's Jasper Wiese are being considered for the series against the British & Irish Lions has put Van Staden's Bok ambitions squarely in the spotlight.
The man affectionately nicknamed "Eskom" hasn't been part of national coach Jacques Nienaber's alignment camps.
"I don't know how the Springbok selectors think and, to be fair, I've been in that position too," said White, who himself copped severe criticism as Bok coach for not selecting former Stormers, Bath and Kings captain Luke Watson back in 2006.
"They've obviously got a plan for how they see the national team going forward. It's a difficult one because I'm not in the inner sanctum of the national setup."
15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Substitutes: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 James Verity-Amm
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Werner Kok
Given that time is running out, it seems unlikely that Van Staden will dislodge the players in front of him in the queue, barring injuries.
"Marco's going to keep playing as hard as he can and who knows, maybe if he keeps bashing on the door he gets a chance," said White.
"In saying that, there's a talented group of players being mentioned like the Du Preez's and Jasper as well as the guys playing here. It's highly unlikely he'll jump ahead."
On the bright side, the Bulls can look forward to their unassuming, bustling and tough breakdown hound giving his all for the rest of the Rainbow Cup campaign before taking up a contract to become Wiese's team-mate at the Tigers.
In fact, White is astounded by Van Staden's continued dedication.
"All I can say is that he's playing really good rugby for us. He's very important to our campaign," said the Bulls' director of rugby.
"I'm trying to squeeze as much out of him as I can before he departs. Marco understands that. I asked him if he wanted to leave earlier, not because I wanted to chase him away but because I just wanted to know where he stands.
"Needless to say, he wanted to honour his commitment to us. He's very positive and wants to do as well as he can for the Bulls. That's a great place for us to be."
Van Staden will come up against the Springbok aspirants Siya Kolisi and Sikhumbuzo Notshe when the Bulls take on the Sharks at Loftus on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 18:15.