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Ken Borland



Happy balance in the Springbok squad 0

Posted on July 29, 2022 by Ken

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber deserves credit for striking a happy balance between retaining the core of the 2019 World Cup winning squad and rewarding some of the outstanding individual form shown in the United Rugby Championship when he announced his squad last weekend for the next few months of international action.

Personally, I am particularly happy to see the return of Marcell Coetzee, who must surely be the designated back-up to the No.6 jersey should something unfortunate happen to Siya Kolisi, and a first call-up for Elrigh Louw. The pair of loose forwards have done so much of the donkey work that has led the Bulls to the URC final.

Evan Roos also fully deserves his place in the squad and, with Pieter-Steph du Toit also back in the mix after his serious shoulder injury in the series against the British and Irish Lions last year, South Africa are truly blessed with exceptional loose forwards to choose from. Jasper Wiese and Kwagga Smith have also previously met expectations in the Springbok jersey.

Warrick Gelant and Aphelele Fassi will provide pleasing competition for the fullback jersey, but don’t be surprised if Nienaber sticks with Willie le Roux, whose experience and performances in high-level games is highly valued by the Springbok management.

Andre Esterhuizen is also deservedly brought in, providing depth in the inside centre position after his superb performances in England, and Ruan Nortje seems the ideal successor to Franco Mostert and can learn much in his first exposure to international rugby.

It’s important to note that Duane Vermeulen, who is two weeks away from his 36th birthday, and Frans Steyn, who turned 35 a month ago, are both absent from the squad because they are unavailable. Vermeulen has had knee surgery, figuring he would rather have it now than in a World Cup year (2023), while Steyn is currently in rehab from a hamstring strain. Nienaber this week gave the impression that he is counting the days until their return to the Springbok squad.

In terms of the front row, there is plenty of depth with Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch and Thomas du Toit all being quality props. New face Ntuthuko Mchunu is inexperienced but has the talent to make the starting front row in the future.

Bulls hooker Johan Grobbelaar, a member of the Springbok squad last year, has been incredible in the URC and was inspired in the epic semi-final win over Leinster in Dublin. It is a stiff ask for him to displace Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx in the pecking order, but I would have had him in the squad ahead of Joseph Dweba. Deon Fourie, who has considerably strengthened the Stormers’ challenge this season, can also cover hooker, of course.

Areas of concern in the squad, in terms of where Nienaber perhaps needs to rustle up some extra back-up, are flyhalf, scrumhalf and outside centre.

Handre Pollard’s flyhalf cover is Elton Jantjies, who has legal and injury problems in the background, and Damian Willemse, who has been a commanding presence at inside centre for the Stormers but there have been murmurs of discontent whenever he has worn the No.10 jersey. The obvious contender, Johan Goosen, is in the squad but will not be able to play until September/October after knee surgery.

Faf de Klerk is the obvious starting scrumhalf, but with Cobus Reinach injured, who sits on the bench? Herschel Jantjies needs to work on providing consistent quick service, while Jaden Hendrikse has had some flaky moments. For me, it is his Sharks team-mate, Grant Williams, who may win a reserves spot, given the injection of pace he can bring and the fact that he can also cover wing, useful if the Boks go for a 6/2 split on the bench again.

Lukhanyo Am and Jesse Kriel, whose current form from Japan we know little about, are the only specialist outside centres in the squad.

Ackers deserves enormous credit & support 0

Posted on May 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Johan Ackermann deserves enormous credit for the way he has transformed the Lions team over the last five years but he also deserves the public’s support for the tough decision he has made to further his career overseas with Gloucester.

Coaches always have a shelf-life with a team and guys like Alex Ferguson or Ian McIntosh staying for many years at one club are the exception rather than the rule. Ackermann has been the provider of so much to the Lions – rebuilding their culture after their morale was shattered during the John Mitchell years; up-skilling them such that they now lead the way in South Africa when it comes to the most progressive brand of rugby; helping to build Springboks who will surely do the country proud if trusted by Allister Coetzee in future; and giving them steel, not only up front amongst their highly impressive pack but also in the way they are now able to win the tight games, as they did against the Sharks last weekend.

So who can begrudge Ackers the chance to advance his own career a bit?

There is no doubt the 46-year-old would never be wrenching himself away from his Lions family and the Ellis Park supporters – the way he broke down while making the announcement of his departure makes this clear – unless he believed a move was essential to further his own highly-promising coaching career.

Ackermann has rightly been spoken of as a future Springbok coach, but there is no top-level international coach at the moment who has been employed in just one country. Steve Hansen coached Wales before joining the All Blacks staff; Eddie Jones was involved with the Australian, Japanese and South African sides before rejuvenating England; Michael Cheika coached Leinster and Stade Francais before getting the Wallabies job; Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi who coached in France before taking over Ireland, and Scotland coach Vern Cotter has the same story.

As brilliant as Ackermann has been, he has no real experience outside of coaching the Lions to a Super Rugby final and one Currie Cup crown. It can only be good for South African rugby that one of its most promising coaches spreads his wings and enjoys new horizons.

There also should be no panic at Ellis Park with the departure of their much-loved coach. As far as a replacement goes – the successor will take charge for the Currie Cup later this year – there is no need for the Lions to look further than what they already have.

The fact that the Lions have someone like the highly-rated Swys de Bruin – who has done well as a head coach before with Griquas and will undoubtedly build on the legacy of the last five years, providing great continuity – means president Kevin de Klerk and CEO Rudolf Straeuli, who have both also played key roles in the Lions’ resurgence, can kip easy when it comes to Ackermann’s successor.

Their structures are clearly in good nick – part of the wonderful legacy Ackermann has left – with both their U19 and U21 teams winning their respective provincial championships last year, so if someone has to move up from that level it should not be so high an elevation as to cause a ricked neck.

In fact, Straeuli used the terms “continuity” and “stability” several times while responding to questions about the road forward for the Lions, so it is not unreasonable to expect De Bruin, JP Ferreira (defence) and Ivan van Rooyen (conditioning) will continue in their roles and have more responsibility.

For those who believe Ackermann has turned his back on the Springbok coaching job, it seems clear that both Allister Coetzee and Rassie Erasmus are in his way for the foreseeable future.

The SA A job is an indication that he is somewhere on Saru’s radar, and he is still willing to coach the second-stringers when SuperRugby breaks for the mid-year internationals, but new challenges and experiences await overseas and it is exciting to think just how good a coach Ackermann will be when he returns to these shores.

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170408/282621737571662

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