Allister Coetzee © Gallo Images
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee welcomed the new ruling that only overseas-based players who have played more than 30 test matches will be eligible for the Springboks, saying it would go a long way to helping keep younger players in South Africa.
And while the ruling still needs to be implemented to see its effect, Coetzee said there has been no limit placed on him on the number of overseas-based players that qualify under the rule that he could pick.
This means while borderline cases like Marcell Coetzee (28 tests) are in danger, there may be new lifeblood for overseas-based players such as Francois Louw, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Duane Vermeulen and others.
Coetzee said he hoped the move would make players think twice about going overseas, where there are currently around 350 South Africans playing abroad at the moment, draining the stocks of local Super Rugby sides.
“No there is no limit to the guys over 30 caps we can pick. I’m happy with that,” Coetzee said at the beginning of the three-day Bok training camp in Sandton on Sunday.
“The players have done the hard work in South Africa, they have played their 30 test matches. These players must also – in terms of succession planning – perform in World Cup 2019 and be available for that. So that is the policy and I’m really pleased with the policy.
“The big thing in the policy is to retain our players. And hopefully it will retain a young player thinking that – as a potential Springbok – thinking twice before playing overseas, rather opting to stay and be available and play for South Africa.”
But while the policy is a first move by the SA Rugby Union to try and stave off the exodus that has been a massive factor in the depletion of playing stocks over the years, it has also been criticized with some saying it won’t do much to stop young players from heading abroad as they can still be selected in the World Cup year if deemed necessary.
Coetzee said the camp was to give players an opportunity to get to know the pathway forward for Springbok rugby in the 2017 season. And while he pointed out that this time last year he wasn’t even appointed, and therefore had no time to plan, the scenario was a lot different this year.
“This is basically the start of our 2017 campaign. This is a great way to start when you have an assessment or camp like this one. As you all notice we are without the Sharks and Kings players, as well as the overseas-based and injured players,” he explained.
“The big thing is to make sure the players understand where we are going to – the plan, the strategy for the year. Not only for this year, but up to 2019. When we’ve planned, we’ve planned until 2023. That is the long-term approach and view.
“Obviously 2019 is where we want to make sure that, starting from today and the next two camps, that a group of players will be assembled to build continuity with. Come 2019 you want to make sure these 40/45 players have been through this whole development programme, a programme where they’ve improved and where they’ve grown. To make sure that we don’t chop and change, but there is continuity with a group of players. In terms of their conditioning, in terms of their fundamental skills, in terms of being able to be mentally strong to win test matches and tight matches.
“This is a start, and hopefully we can build on this. There is another one in April and another in May, so we will have three camps this year. With that week leading up to the first test against France, we would have had at least six sessions where we put technical things in place, where we make sure the organisational things are really the way we want to play.”
The Boks will stay at the camp until Tuesday whereafter they will rejoin their franchise teams.