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Rugby | Springboks

Ruan Combrinck © BackPage Pix

Coetzee on why Combrinck wasn't selected

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says Ruan Combrinck hasn’t been selected for the Springboks because he simply hasn’t had enough game time this year.

Coetzee omitted Combrinck, one of the standout players last year for the Springboks, from his squads this year, and didn’t add him to the Castle Lager Rugby Championship team for the final two tests in South Africa despite calls for him to do just that.

But Coetzee, despite needing to overcome a poor performance by Raymond Rhule on the wing, was adamant that Combrinck certainly hasn’t played enough rugby this year.

He pointed out that since the end of Super Rugby in August, which Combrinck only played a handful of games since coming back from injury, he had not started a game at his club in Japan.

According to Coetzee Combrinck has not started in any of his side – the Kintetsu Liners’ games this year and therefore can’t be expected to simply return to the side.

“Just on that one. What I’ve looked at since the start of this year is players showing good form, that is the criteria that I used, and at this time after Super Rugby Ruan hasn’t played any rugby for Kintetsu Liners. He has been there for three games and he hasn’t started any of them,” Coetzee said.

“I burnt my fingers last year when we had players coming from France and we spoke about their conditioning and their fitness levels. We are at a crucial stage of our campaign at this point of time. We may not be in the race to win it, but we still have two important games to finish. We have important home games to end well.

“To me if the player doesn’t play, how do we expect the player to perform coming from that area – I’ve coached in Japan myself and with due respect to come from club rugby, to make that step up at national level is different.

“There is one thing understanding and knowing how a player played a year ago, and six months ago, three months ago and the condition the player is in at present. For me I have been following all our players playing abroad very very closely because I learnt that lesson last year.”

Quizzed on why it was possible for Handre Pollard to return via the normal route without any game time under his belt and back from injuries, Coetzee said the situation was very different.

“The difference is that Handre is obviously here with us, with the coaches, training with us and putting in extra sessions with us. He is up to speed with our technical ability, game plan and where this team wants to go. Look this is the first time this year that we have this group together for six, seven test matches and continuity is important, it does play a part. In terms of what we have gone through, we had a substandard game, we are not proud of the last game but we have put that behind us now.

“We’ve buried the Albany game, we have a turnaround strategy. We got together last night and we spoke about the Albany game as a management team. That was the first meeting. The second one was with the team leaders and the coaches have been together. We are disappointed ourselves and our supporters and we want to turn it around and get it right.”

Coetzee contrasted Combrinck’s position with that of flanker Francois Louw, who returned to the side and arrived in Bloemfontein on Monday after some good form for his English club Bath.

“Francois Louw has come back and joined us fully fit. He has come back through a magnificent pre-season. He is stronger than he was before, had three good games for Bath and he has played well. He is ready to play test match rugby and I’ve got no doubt that without Jaco Kriel there that is the type of player that would add value to our turnaround strategy for the last two games. He brings what we are probably lacking in Jaco Kriel, that playing towards the ball and making sure we contest on the ground and not giving teams necessarily that quick ball. I think Siya played really really well as an openside at the beginning of the season, he stood in really well but I could see the difference when Jaco joined in with Siya, and they played in tandem. We saw the benefits from that.”

There may well have been a veiled message to both Combrinck and other Boks overseas in the way Coetzee described Louw’s attitude towards the Springboks. While he never said it, there at times have been rumours of antipathy from overseas-based Springboks in playing test rugby.

“Francois will add massive value and also in terms of his leadership, he has been here, done it before and now at least he not just fitter and stronger, but he is also one of those players who wants to play for South Africa. He wants to play, and he is a guy who phones after a test, and is excited about the new culture in the team. He finds out about the small things, which might not seem to be important, but it is very important to see where the overseas players’ loyalties are at this point in time, and I can say without any fear that Francois wants to be a Springbok still and wants to play for the Springboks.

Coetzee said Combrinck was still in the Bok plans going forward, even though he wasn’t included now.

“Well obviously all the players playing overseas that have played more than 30 games and qualify, are part of the plans. Yes, Ruan could possibly be part of the plans, if he plays and performs and I get feedback, and not guess, not hope. If he is showing good form then he will play. The reality is that players who are based overseas cannot play the last game against Wales for us, because it falls outside the international window. But yes, he is still part of the plans going forward.”

The Springboks included uncapped S’busiso Nkosi from the Sharks as their wing cover, but it is unclear whether Coetzee plans to give Rhule a second chance after missing nine tackles in the 57-0 loss to the All Blacks in Albany.


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