There is some confusion among local Super Rugby coaches over where they stand with regards to players who have been selected for the national Under-20 squad about to contest the Junior World Cup in Stellenbosch and Bellville which starts next week.
According to the SuperSport website, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee says he hopes common sense will prevail in the case of the man he could lose for the all-important Super Rugby clash with the Bulls at Loftus, prop Steven Kitshoff. And Sharks coach John Plumtree, while happy to let lock Pieter-Steph du Toit hook up with the Baby Boks, says he will not release Paul Jordaan as he needs him for the match against the Lions in Johannesburg.
“What is more important and what takes priority – is it Super Rugby or is it the national age-group team?” asked Plumtree when the question was put to him.
“We are releasing Pieter-Steph, so I think we are meeting them halfway on that so I don’t anticipate any problems. Paul is playing well for us and we need him for the match against the Lions. I think if you asked the players which games they would want to play I think they would say Super Rugby. It’s where the money is and we pay their salaries.”
Plumtree, like Coetzee, pointed out that the players would be free to join up with the national side immediately after Saturday’s games, and they don’t need to be involved immediately in the JWC challenge as the South African side has a relatively uncomplicated start to the competition.
“I had a meeting with Rassie Erasmus (in his capacity as SARU Performance Director) and Dawie Theron (Baby Bok coach) when we got back from tour four weeks ago and at the time the message we got was that they would make every effort to accommodate us by managing Steven effectively and managing the situation,” said Coetzee.
“There is a chance we will lose Steven for the match against the Bulls, but we are hoping not because he is an important player in our team and this is a heck of an important game for us. I think common sense should dictate. If you asked the players which games they would want to play, I am pretty sure I know how they would answer. Steven has played every game for us and he will want to play against the Bulls because it is such a massive game.”
Coetzee said that he hoped the under-20 management would comply with his request to use Kitshoff sparingly during the tournament, resting him in games where the Baby Boks were certain to win.
“He has had a tough Super Rugby season and there are some tough games still to come in June. It isn’t going to help us or him if he ends up playing a whole lot of matches in quick succession, which happens in age-group tournaments.”
Coetzee said a decision had been made by SARU earlier this year that the national age-group team would take preference over Super Rugby, a departure from what was the case in the past.
If that is the case, it really doesn’t make any sense as a player learns far more playing Super Rugby than playing age-group rugby.