The SA Schools team that will face Wales on Friday, 11 August at City Park Stadium in Crawford; France on Tuesday, 15 August, at Paarl Gymnasium; and England on Saturday, 19 August, at a venue yet to be confirmed was announced yesterday. As usual, a lot was said regarding the selection and the list of unlucky boys not selected is very long as no SA Schools "A" side was selected. Just 28 boys.
The first thing to remember these boys did not pick themselves and deserve the 100% support of all schoolboy rugby supporters. This analysis is by no means done by an expert and only express the view of this old fart. Go Bokkies.
The first question must be the choice of 18 forwards and only 10 backline players. At certain positions in the backline, this side will be very vulnerable in the event of injuries.
Then I must ask why is Sean Erasmus not involved in this team? Last year he was the head coach of the SA "A" side and the forward coach of the SA Schools side. Apparently, a final decision on Sean's participation of this series will only be taken this Saturday and we hope sanity prevails.
Nkosikhona Masuku #1, Golden Lions/ Parktown Boys High
Banele Mthenjane #1, Pumas/ Nelspruit
Jordan Clarke #1, Sharks / Glenwood
Keagan Glade #3, Golden Lions / KES
Asenathi Ntlabakanye #3, Golden Lions/ St Stithians
Not a lot wrong here but do feel that Dian Bleuler of SWD/Oakdale can feel very disappointed for not making the squad. Dian adds a lot with his big frame of 187cm and 108kgs to the physicality of the side and has shown that he is as mobile as some big loosies. The selection of Asenathi is one of my favourites, but unfortunately, his ability to play a full game due to lack of fitness may ask too much from Keegan Glade during this 3 match 9 days adventure. Asenathi showed his worth as an impact player against the KZN Sharks but maybe just maybe Keynan Knox of the Sharks would have been a better proposition taking the Bokkies schedule into account.
Morne Brandon, Golden Lions / Monument
Ruhann Greyling, Free State / Grey College
Fezokuhle Mbatha, Sharks/ Maritzburg College
Morne and Ruhann are excellent as extra loosies, both very able will ball in hand but we must remember that we are facing u/19 teams that operate in a professional environment in Europe. Their forwards will be big and strong and although Fezokuhle will certainly be up to a physical challenge upfront I would have preferred Damian Venter of the Lions in the mix. Dameon was not only trusted with the 1st half job to challenge the Sharks physically upfront for no reason, but was one of the reasons why the Sharks was beaten upfront.
Adrian Alberts (lock), DHL Western Province / Paarl Boys High
Celimpilo Gumede (lock), Sharks / Durban High School
Juan van der Mescht (lock), Sharks/ Glenwood*
Christen Van Niekerk (lock), Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions/ Monument
Now, unfortunately, I have to disagree, picking the reserve lock from the Sharks even ahead of Edward Laubscher, that had and excellent Craven Week does not feel right. Celimpilo only weighs 95kgs and are 190cm tall and even if he displayed, which he did not, the same aggressiveness of Kwagga van Niekerk who is only 192cm and 104kgs, to duplicate Kwagga is also, may I dare say "stupid". Added to that Adrian Alberts at 194cm and 94 kgs to the mix and South Africa is going to experience a serious line out problem. Janko Swanepoel at 199cm and 105kg had an excellent Craven Week showing class in the lineouts and aggressive play in the loose. Even Stephan le Roux of the Lions was a better choice. Aikona.
Vian Fourie #6, DHL Western Province / Paarl Boys High
Joachim Martins #8, DHL Western Province/ Paarl Gymnasium
Dylan Richardson #7, Sharks/ Kearsney
Mark Snyman #6, Golden Lions/ Helpmekaar
A great bunch of players BUT apart from Dylan Richardson to a big degree I miss that in the face aggression. A brilliant player that Mark Snyman is but if he is forced to compete for the ball on the ground you lose his abilities with the ball in hand and all cry rape, rape because Mark is not having a good day. Mark displayed this year that he upgraded his ability to win turnover ball to master class, but he needs some freedom to display his wonderful abilities with the ball in hand. Here the non-selection of Marcel Theunissen of Free State and to a lesser extend Dylan Kruger of KZN and Labuschagne of the Bulls has to be questioned. The lineout abilities of the boys selected must also be a worrying factor and although both 8th men is quality lineout jumpers we are a bit short at the loosies.
Phendulani Buthelezi, Sharks / Durban High School
Travis Gordon, Bidvest Waltons Golden Lions / KES
Two wonderful players displaying the art of 8th man play for our delight. Best two boys selected. Both candidates for captaincy of the side. Happy Happy Happy.
To summarise, a lot of very talented boys chosen who obviously have their supporters and who will send death threats to me BUT. In 2016 the forwards of the Bokkies was "bullied" and again this year we pick a pack of forwards to take teams on where the value of forward play is not only understood but being perfected as an art. It seems that the "hard" boys in rugby are not appreciated in South African rugby and we prefer to play a loose and attacking game rather than concentrate on what made South Africa great. I am a worried man but also rightly often called an old fart that knows nothing about rugby. I am worried.
In Part 2 I will look at the backline. First need a beer to relax.