Kayser latest in long line of snubs for Sharks
The last time I checked, Tommy Bedford was living somewhere in London. Harry Viljoen and some of his predecessors as Springbok coach should thank their lucky stars.
For if the outspoken former Natal and Springbok captain was still living in
Durban and taking an active interest in Natal and South African rugby, he would
probably be doing his nut over the treatment being dished out to his province.
Bedford was never known for keeping his feelings hidden. He will be forever
remembered for his unambiguous finger gesture to the national selectors when he
he felt he and his fellow Natal players were getting the short end of the stick
back in the late 1960s.
When he retired from playing at the end of 1976, he turned his hand to writing
a column in a Durban weekend newspaper. The man was never short of bitterness,
and it was he who coined (in the rugby sense, at least) Natal's longtime
reputation of being "The last outpost of the British Empire".
Were he around today, there would surely have been an overflow of Bedford
vitriol in these past few years.
Of course, Nick Mallett's unceremonious axing of longserving Natal based
skipper Gary Teichmann shortly before the 1999 World Cup was the most infamous
recent incident to invoke the ire of Durbanites.
The treatment dished out to Teichmann exceeded even the shoddy treatment
accorded to some of his predecessors in the line of Natal No8s who had
captained South Africa - Bedford and Wynand Claassen. Remember how Wynand was
made to sit out of the first test in 1981 when the Bok management decided that
their tour captain was not good enough to lead the team on the field?
But Mallett was not the only coach of modern vintage to irritate Durbanites.
Teichmann himself may have had good reason to complain when Kitch Christie
overlooked him for the end of year tour to England and Italy during the World
Cup year of 1995. Teichmann, who captained Natal to the Currie Cup title, had
been in impressive form in his debut test against Wales at Ellis Park but was
The man who wore the No8 jersey in those matches was hardly a new face, but
neither could Francois Pienaar be classified as a genuine No8. Coming to think
of it, it is no secret that Mark Andrews was put out by Christie's decision to
play him at the back of the scrum earlier that same season. Another case of
Natal getting the short straw?
When Andre Markgraaff took over in 1996 his decision to install Teichmann as
captain only partially made up for his treatment of James Small, who was at the
time one of Natal's favourite sons. To Durbanites, Small's late night visit to
a Cape Town nightclub in the week before a test match was not enough of a
misdemeanour to warrant his exclusion for the bulk of the series against the
It was a strange year for Natal. Teichmann did become the Bok skipper, Henry
Honiball was installed as the first choice flyhalf, Hugh Reece-Edwards became
an assistant coach and Dick Muir got long overdue recognition by touring
Argentina as a midweeker, along with Kevin Putt, Jeremy Thomson and a few
But it was still a time when Natalians felt they had reason to feel shunned.
Witness the decision by NRU president Keith Parkinson to send a strongly worded
letter to SARFU when Thomson was left out of the initial squad. For me, that
was a little over the top, particularly as it came at the same time that
Markgraaff had overlooked the World Cup winning captain Pienaar for little
known Griquas player, Theo Oosthuizen.
A year later they could have felt justified again when Andre Joubert was
ignored by new coach Carel du Plessis. Coming to think of it, the treatment
dished out to Henry Honiball, who was never made to feel comfortable under the
Du Plessis regime, was also pretty shabby. At one stage we even had Jannie de
Beer being selected ahead of Honiball, who found himself making an appearance
against the All Blacks at centre.
Du Plessis was no more popular in Durban than Markgraaff. Mallett faired a
little better, but then he went and dropped Teichmann.
And so we get to the incumbent, Viljoen. On the face of it, the main difference
between Viljoen and his predecessors is that he does not frustrate Durbanites
by dropping a bomb out of the blue. He does it in a more incremental fashion.
For instance, when he left out Trevor Halstead and Craig Davidson from his
initial squad, the blow was deadened by a claim that the squad was by no means
finalised. The group named in Wellington was not a Springbok squad but just a
group named to attend a training camp.
By the time the camp arrived, Natal critics had forgotten their objections.
Viljoen had been partially helped by that team's failure to make an impression
in the Super 12 final.
But the conspiracist theorists will tell you that this gave him an opening to
strike his next blow. Deon Kayser, another pivotal member of South Africa's
form team in the Super 12, joined Charl van Rensburg and Gaffie du Toit in
making the trek back to Durban rather than remain with the Bok squad that flew
to Johannesburg for Saturday's test against France.
Were Bedford among us, there can be little doubt that he would vent his spleen
over this omission. While I have a feeling that Robbie Fleck may merit his
place on the basis of past performances and may yet strike bulls eye during the
Tri-Nations, it is hard to justify Kayser's absence on the basis of the what
the respective players did in the Super 12.
The theory that he is too small and does not front up against the big men in
the tackle is not supported by members of the Sharks coaching staff.
argument that he is 31 and hence unlikely to be around for World Cup 2003 falls
flat once it is noted that Japie Mulder is the same age.
Neither should we allow our condemnation of Kayser's exclusion to be obscured
by the selection of Adrian Jacobs and Conrad Jantjes. The point about that pair
is that they are probably just along for the experience they can pick up in
training with the Boks. They are unlikely to make any meaningful contribution
against the French (lowly Italy may be a different story).
Kayser, on the other hand, should be in the starting 22. He can play both wing
and centre, he has experience at the top level. On top of that, he is black,
which means that this is an instance where the "merit with bias" concept
introduced by SARFU in their transformation drive and used as a baton to lash
Mallett in 1999 should definitely be applied.
Am I being cynical in suggesting that the selection of Jantjes and Jacobs to be
members of a travelling party, and probably little more than that, is a sop to
deflect the heat away from the omission of a player who had sound reason to
expect to be part of the starting team?
Or maybe it is just my Natal roots that make me so bitter and twisted.
Whatever, this may be time for Durbanites to unite and make an impassioned plea
that, with apologies to William Wordsworth for borrowing from his poem 'London,
1802', could go something like this: "Bedford! thou shouldst be with us at this
hour: Natal have need of