Pretend you are the next Springbok coach

Harry Jones Roar Guru

By Harry Jones, Harry Jones is a Roar Guru

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117 Have your say

    Coach Allister Coetzee is fired. You’re hired. You have a six-year contract.

    You have to decide your core group of players to take you to Japan in 2019 and France in 2023; and return to top two or three status in between.

    As you begin to pencil the names in, you will need to highlight any of the ones who are ‘white.’ You will need to see if any of those highlighted names can be replaced by a player without that pigment disability.

    By 2019, which is almost here, you will need to rock up in Tokyo with the ability to name a game day squad for every match which has no more than 12 white players.

    If you don’t, you will lose your job, and cost your sport all government funding, hosting rights for Test matches, and even private sponsor money.

    Also, you will know privately the maximum number of white players who will be allowed to be Boks in France in 2023. A good guide is women’s rugby in South Africa (already, only 20 per cent of players in the national squad are allowed to be white).

    Thus, by 2023, which really means by 2020 (for purposes of awarding national contracts for white players, building cap numbers, or averting premature choices to depart a la CJ Stander, WP Nel, Josh Strauss, Scott Spedding, or Rory Kockott) the working figure for white players in a 23-man squad is five or six.

    Who are those five or six white players you can afford to use, and do they play in a position where, if injured, there are only white replacements, or is there another position in which the second best player is black?

    The positions themselves begin to be coded white or black.

    This is the way you have to think. It’s not about finding opportunities for deserving black players. You have to be ruthless about denying white players a place on the plane, even if they are the best at their position.

    You will need to identify positions where the second or third-best players are black, and that will guide you to eliminate the “right” white players who are the best.

    But wait!

    1. Not all ‘non-white’ players are equally black, according to the government. An ‘ethnically’ African black player like Tendai Mtawarira (originally from Zimbabwe) or Raymond Rhule (from Ghana) is preferable over ‘Coloured’ players like Rudy Paige or Elton Jantjies. The clear signal from the government is that by 2023, maximum caps will also start to apply to non-white players who are not ‘black enough.’

    Elton Jantjies Lions Super Rugby Union 2017

    Elton Jantjies (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    2. You are not going to be allowed to get down to 12 white players and then four or five white players by hiding them – typically the largest men, of Dutch and Huguenot heritage – in your pack. The government is even talking about ‘tight forwards’ being subject to ‘no whites need apply’ cap by 2023.

    These two points are a problem. (1) ‘Coloured’ South Africans, who live predominantly in the Western and Eastern Cape, have been rugby fans and players for over a century, while black Africans are much newer to the game (for both unfair reasons and also mere reasons of preference for soccer). (2) there are currently no more than a couple of non-white locks playing senior rugby in South Africa, and there are probably ten or more white Saffa locks of Test quality playing at home or abroad (Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Ruan Botha, Jean Kleyn, Jason Jenkins, Juandre Kruger, Andries Bekker, Paul Willemse, and Franco van der Merwe).

    What do you do?

    What is your methodology?

    What are the positions in which you can ‘live easiest without any white players’ and still win?

    Take for example hookers. South Africa is deep in quality hookers. Malcolm Marx is a phenom, Bismarck du Plessis is still dominant, Schalk Brits is ending a brilliant career for Saracens, and five other hookers play abroad who could vie for national honours. But they are all white.

    Springboks Frans Malherbe, Bismarck Du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira

    (David Davies/PA Wire)

    Meanwhile, Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle, and Scarra Ntubeni are all decent hookers, who do not hurt you on the ‘get down to 12 and then five whites’ mandate, even if they are smallish and less dynamic.

    Might it not be better to drop the amazingly talented Marx? Maybe it’s better to code the two and 16 jerseys right now as non-white?

    If you keep Marx, and you cannot find any black locks of Test quality, you simply have to have black props.

    And therefore, flame-haired Steven Kitshoff faces trouble.

    If you were writing down five white players to take you through 2023, you’d probably write down: Marx, Kitshoff, Etzebeth, PSDT, and Lood de Jager. You simply cannot waste any of those slots on white backline players.

    Eben Etzebeth South Africa Springboks Rugby Union 2017 tall

    (MICHAEL SHEEHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    But Kitshoff might need to be scratched. Because there are black options at loosehead; better than the black tighthead options. Hell, even Ruan ‘Plank’ Dreyer keeps being picked because the only viable black tighthead is the up-and-down (and seldom fully fit) Trevor Nyakane.

    But with Frans Malherbe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Wilco Louw or Vincent Koch fit, the gap in quality between elite white tightheads and black tightheads is greater than margin between Kitshoff and the black options (such as Ox Nche and Nyakane, if he plays the loosehead, where he is better).

    This is also hard on young Tank du Toit, who might need to join the diaspora and maximise his earnings, rather than hope for one of the few ‘white’ jerseys.

    What will you do? Declare both prop positions ‘black?’ Or just the loosehead slot? That way you can stock the loosehead three deep without white players; and Kitshoff can return to France.

    What do you do, new Bok coach?

    South Africa has always produced large numbers of quality loose forwards, but luckily you will not be as captive to white talent in this area. Yes, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley, Francois Louw, Jaco Kriel, Marcell Coetzee, Chris Cloete, Heinrich Brussow, Jean-Luc du Preez, Dan du Preez, Michael Rhodes, Don Armand, Jacques du Plessis, Ruan Ackermann, Schalk Burger, Cornell du Preez, Wiann Liebenberg, Rynhardt Elstadt, and Derek Minnie are good, but most of them have solved your problem by joining Stander and Josh Strauss overseas. They can arguably be replaced by the Stormers loosies who are all not white (the fantastically skillful–if not physically large–trio of Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, and Sibu Notshe). Also, Craven Week is showing us quality and very fast black loose forwards; more each year.

    So, do you think of your game-day loosies as needing to be two black two white? Or even cap white loosies at one?

    Maybe, if you are going to meet likely 2023 caps on white players, you need to only have white locks and a white tighthead, or five of the gameday 13 forwards, and hope you can find an elite black tighthead by 2020.

    If there are any white backs who could make their way into the ‘five indispensable whites’ it’s probably Handre Pollard and Jan Serfontein, currently. But realistically, both can be replaced without losing too much.

    If Pollard is going to be the only white flyhalf candidate, it might be better to code ten as non-white, too. Potential white backup Pat Lambie is gone, as is Johan Goosen, and local Rob du Preez has not seized even a backup flyhalf spot, yet. We will see if his halfback father can coach him to greatness with the Sharks. But much pressure will come to bear on Rob Senior to allow Curwin Bosch to show what he can do at flyhalf (if he can learn to tackle).

    Handre Pollard in action for the Springboks

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Serfontein was the best Bok back in 2017; maybe he was the good backline player at all. But surely we can find quicker, more agile midfielders in black and Coloured playing ranks. I rate the jackling centre Lukhanyo Am very highly, and super-young Damian Willemse for the Stormers is still growing; he might be an ideal playmaker 12 who can also step and hit hard.

    Willemse may also be the best bet for a non-white flyhalf super-athlete who can transform his position, much as black quarterbacks in the NFL added space and time dimensions to gridiron that pocket passers like Dan Marino or Tom Brady never could.

    Of course, this means that Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster, EW Viljoen, and Andre Esterhuizen should immediately follow Frans Steyn, Serfontein, Paul Jordaan, Johann Sadie, Danie Poolman, and Robert Ebersohn overseas.

    Wing and fullback positions can never be wasted on white players after this year; this is obvious. Plenty of good options exist (but Coetzee hasn’t picked from those options very intelligently); and long-term, this should make the Boks as dangerous an attacking side as the Blitzboks.

    There is no substitute for sheer speed, and South Africa should be the fastest sprinting team in rugby. Andries Coetzee should be the Last White Bok Fullback. Warrick Gelant or Bosch or Willemse are all better long-term options right now, and one would think there are a dozen other black candidates.

    Oh, and I don’t know your race, new coach, but no more than 40 per cent (or probably five coaches) of your coaching staff can be white, and there is exactly one non-white Super Rugby or Pro14 head coach to choose from.

    So, you will need to think of two phases:

    Phase One: a max of 12 white players and five white coaches from 2018-2019
    Phase Two: a max of five white key players from 2020-2023 (no investment in more than 7-8 white players, to cover injury) and probably only two white coaches.

    Who are your five white players to still invest in, top up, and do anything to retain?

    Which white tighthead?

    Which of Kitshoff, Marx, Etzebeth, Lood, PSDT, Mostert, Botha, Kriel, and Whiteley?

    Good luck!

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    The Crowd Says (117)

    • Columnist

      November 18th 2017 @ 7:34am
      Geoff Parkes said | November 18th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report


      Your anger has transformed to resignation and despair!
      It’s a terrible outlook, no hiding that, one that from this distance seems surreal.
      But of course not much of this is about rugby, at least in how we see rugby; the cut and thrust of selection and form.

      Some would say that if it was a fair world this wouldn’t be happening. Others would say that if it was a fair world there wouldn’t be the rationale for this to happen. And others say, if it was a fair world there would be a separate category for ranga’s like Kitshoff.

      Good luck indeed!

      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Haha! Kitshoff as a new genus.

        • November 21st 2017 @ 5:36am
          hopalong said | November 21st 2017 @ 5:36am | ! Report

          Sad article Harry..I cry for the game I once loved.

      • November 18th 2017 @ 9:09am
        Rugger said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        The quota system is in place to encourage equal opportunities – as much as you might desire a return to the 1980’s

        • Roar Guru

          November 18th 2017 @ 10:31am
          Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          @Rugger … today is the best time in history. Love the future. Opposed apartheid with all my power; and paid a price. Hoped to provoke thought — by describing the Bok coach’s job. Apparently failed to stimulate your brain.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 11:02am
          RahRah said | November 18th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

          Yeah I can just see Harry begging for a return to the days of old. You are quite clearly a fool who believes that more of the same this time inflicted from the opposite side will address inequity and help redress the sins of the past.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 3:49pm
          ethan said | November 18th 2017 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          Rugger, perhaps you have been reading too many feminist articles, as you seem to have made the very common mistake of confusing equal opportunity with equal numbers. One says there must be 5 white and 5 black, no matter the talent. The other says let all blacks and whites be eligible, and shall the most talent be picked. I know which I think is the fairer system.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 5:27pm
          Ex force fan said | November 18th 2017 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

          The quota system does not encourage equal opportunities. To the contrary, it rewards mediocrity and punish excellence. Kids that are already advantages, e.g. going to private schools, gets another heads-up because they share the same skin colour of the majority of people that are poor. They not only get a break in rugby, but also has to get much lower marks to study a degree e.g. medicine than the white kid that went to a public school.
          Any system that assume because you are white you are rich and privileged and because your are black you are poor and disadvantages without looking at the individuals’ circumstances lacks a moral basis.

          • November 18th 2017 @ 5:32pm
            Ex force fan said | November 18th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

            An example is Beast, a Zimbabwean whose parents are close to Mugabe but suddenly he is disadvantaged and benefit from being a quota selection while there is a red head South African born and raised prop (Steven Kitchhoff) that shown against the All Blacks that he is better than Beast but were dropped for no reason other reason that he is not black enough. The country is so racist that they prefer to give a foreigner that is black preference above their own.

          • Roar Guru

            November 18th 2017 @ 8:59pm
            Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

            Yes, a cap on one race in a test team does nothing to transform the grass roots…

    • November 18th 2017 @ 8:27am
      DavSA said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Harry your article resonates and concerns me at the same time. A survey conducted by SARU ….lets safely say not my best buddies … found that the reasons for our players leaving were 70% financial and 30% for other reasons.I think we can comfortably assume those are around quotas. Part of the current cabal that …well……arrogantly runs our game………So arrogant that they assumed they had an inherit right to the world cup and never assumed others may also have a right to it as well and did not afford the competitive respect to France who did the tough work behind the scenes and stole the show . …but I am digressing .

      The only question is …is there a solution for SA Rugby?

      Answer …Yes!…absolutely!…..because the resolution can only be political not sporting and SA politics are in serious flux .

      The previous sports minister , Mbalula ….an ambitious , manic , ego driven ….person ( and I may be painting a target on my back here ) who has subsequently become our minister of police targeted quotas as a vehicle to popularity. His replacement is nowhere near as vociferous and in fact is …well lets just call him a very quite guy.He will not push the quota agenda.

      It is almost a certainty that the moderate DA party will command a seriously high percentage of the vote come 2019 and that the ruling party will decline. This is not an opinion but is happening as we talk….What it really means is a painfully maturing democracy where at the very least the DA will have influence at a meaningful level and they are absolutely pro development and anti quotas. I know they will leave SA rugby to it’s own devices and doing what it does best ..IE just being a great rugby team.

      I believe Harry that my …lets call it future scenario will hold sway ……So what that does is to counter your very negative viewpoint which I so understand .


      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2017 @ 8:57am
        Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        We need DA to rise; and plan a pluralistic future where SA is as much a talent target for migration as Canada or Australia.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 9:07am
          DavSA said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

          Actually it is Harry . You know this …..A serious destination of preference Nigerians , East , West ,Central Africans . A place of refuge for millions of Zimbabweans , Mozambiquens , Angolans, Zambians etc . We not that bad .

          • Roar Guru

            November 18th 2017 @ 9:22am
            Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

            True, but the antagonistic posture I’ve described in this article discourages emigration of young families with big athletes from, for instance, Poland or Russia; or bright young doctors from Ethiopia or Iran.

            • November 18th 2017 @ 9:28am
              DavSA said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

              Nigeria, Congo , crap wont say Ghana . Cmon Harry this is Africa. It is inevitable that West African players will make their way thru the system .

              • Roar Guru

                November 18th 2017 @ 9:34am
                Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

                Nigerian diaspora is huge.

                It’ll continue!

                I think it’s 7th or 8th most populous country?

          • November 18th 2017 @ 9:42am
            Bakkies said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

            Dav that’s all fine and good but you have to have jobs, schools, housing and electricity to take them in. Does SA even have that?

            This is going on while highly educated and quality SA doctors are making a new life for themselves in Australia, Ireland, UK, US, etc despite the expense that such a relocation occurs (they have to do their licences which takes a lot of time and money).

            • Roar Guru

              November 18th 2017 @ 9:47am
              Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

              Clearly, the answer is no.

            • November 18th 2017 @ 9:54am
              DavSA said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

              Shot Bakkies , You and I have covered this before , …the vast majority of those migrating to SA is out of desperation and they in turn have evolved a huge informal economy. There is also …and this we did not discuss but many African , Pakistani and Indian professionals IE Doctors migrate here.

              • November 18th 2017 @ 10:31am
                Bakkies said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

                ‘There is also …and this we did not discuss but many African , Pakistani and Indian professionals IE Doctors migrate here.’

                They migrate to Australia too. Australia has taken a lot of Sudanese refugees. Who have often found housing out in the sticks as house prices are through the roof. There are two bedroom apartments in Australia that cost over 1.2 million AUD I kid you not. Not enough supply to meet demand and they are still happy to take in more people.

              • Roar Guru

                November 18th 2017 @ 10:32am
                Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

                It’s a good option for those groups…

        • November 18th 2017 @ 9:36am
          RahRah said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

          Harry do you think it is conceivable that the Govt might entertain a team along the lines of the NZ Maori? Instead of the quota system for the national team, choose a team of “indigenous” players to play in chosen matches the way the NZ Maori do. This might be a way of showcasing indigenous talent without destroying SA rugby’s credibility.
          The deeper issue might be that there are some who wish to destroy the Boer game altogether.

          • Roar Guru

            November 18th 2017 @ 9:39am
            Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

            Nope. They have SARU forced into the white player cap. They’ll play it out to the end.

          • November 18th 2017 @ 10:33am
            Bakkies said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

            Don’t think they can. The stupid thing about it is that the Boks can’t play the Maori due to it being a team selected along racial lines.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 10:06am
          hein cloete said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          Dreamer, you are talking about Africa.

      • November 18th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Mark said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        The IRB needs to step in here – just as FIFA dictates – there can be ZERO political interference with the game

        The SA Government CANNOT dictate to SARU anything

        • Roar Guru

          November 18th 2017 @ 10:33am
          Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          WR/IRB fears the shallow and absurd counter-claims of racism..

    • Roar Guru

      November 18th 2017 @ 8:46am
      Kia Kaha said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Get creative with genealogies and prove all your white players came from the Rift Valley and, therefore, are all eligible.

      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2017 @ 8:55am
        Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report


        “Kitshoff is blackish.”

        • November 18th 2017 @ 9:01am
          DavSA said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          Black and proud

        • Roar Rookie

          November 18th 2017 @ 9:55am
          Gumboot said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          Orange is the new Black

          • Columnist

            November 18th 2017 @ 11:03am
            Geoff Parkes said | November 18th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

            Great line gumboot 🙂

    • November 18th 2017 @ 9:00am
      Sage said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      Very much from the heart. Thank you Harry even though it isn’t an easy read. I can’t even begin to understand how it must feel. DavSA’s comments offers some light it appears but a lot to happen and the 2019 clock is ticking relentlessly.
      It certainly puts perspective to the pop gun Cheika/Tahs/Quota theories on this site. Luxury.

      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2017 @ 9:14am
        Machooka said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        ‘It certainly puts perspective to the pop gun Cheika/Tahs/Quota theories on this site. Luxury.’

        Well said Sage… ‘perspective’ is a fascinating point of view eh 😉

    • Roar Guru

      November 18th 2017 @ 9:11am
      Machooka said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      Thanks Harry for a thumping piece… and sadly, a depressing but necessary piece. Your anger, frustration and hopelessness resonates off the page!

      Politics in sport… blah

      Social engineering… blah

      Self-seeking sycophants… blah

      Blah blah blah… ffs!

      • November 18th 2017 @ 9:23am
        DavSA said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Machooka …rugby wise …yeah not great ,,, but socially SA is really not doing that bad. Despite all , we Africans here in the Southern parts are just getting on …strangely enough. I see better things by the day despite govt not because of it . I live here .

        • Roar Guru

          November 18th 2017 @ 9:26am
          Machooka said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          All good DavSA… and hope must spring eternal eh! 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2017 @ 9:24am
        Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        I’m glad I was able to build a dish with mental cardamom, political cumin, and academic turmeric for you to dip your seared tofu in, Hoff.

        • Roar Guru

          November 18th 2017 @ 9:27am
          Machooka said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

          🙂 🙂

          No carrot!?!

          • Roar Guru

            November 18th 2017 @ 9:27am
            Machooka said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report


            • November 18th 2017 @ 9:29am
              RahRah said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

              Plenty of chilies

            • Roar Guru

              November 18th 2017 @ 9:30am
              Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

              A side of ginger, on a bed of Kits(hoff).

    • November 18th 2017 @ 9:25am
      RahRah said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Wow, I knew it was bad but not this bad. Now they have varying shades of “blackness”?
      Perhaps as a coach your only option is to appeal to the UN.

      • Roar Guru

        November 18th 2017 @ 9:32am
        Harry Jones said | November 18th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Just thought I’d remind everyone of the absurdity …

        It’s the only reason I am not totally sad about the French getting the RWC: it felt wrong to see ANC “win” given this anti-sporting plan.

    , ,