Kurt-Lee Arendse’s decision is another reminder of Springboks’ open breeding philosophy

Kurt-Lee Arendse’s decision is another reminder of Springboks’ open breeding philosophy

Kurt-Lee Arendse’s decision is another reminder of Springboks’ open breeding philosophy

    Credit: PA Images

Credit: PA Images

A few days after the Blitzboks team produced a pure masterclass to clinch the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, former superstar of the seven Kurt-Lee Arendse will only begin his second test for the Springboks against the All Blacks this Saturday. .

Several years ago, such a selection would have been seen as a shocking decision and no doubt drove South African rugby fans crazy. At just 1.80m tall and weighing around 80kg, Arendse is a fairly literal lightweight on a Springbok rugby team renowned for its huge players and bone-crunching physicality.

Still, Arendse is a similar substitute for the injured Cheslin Kolbe, and the willingness of Bok’s coaches to entrust the little sprinter with this starting opportunity is yet another example of a player selection philosophy that no longer has a primary fixation with size and brute strength.

Warrior spirit

Indeed, when the Springboks break down their selection checklist, factors such as pace of work, discipline and so-called “warrior spirit” are so popular that the playing field has been unequivocally open to all rugby players. South African.

Former Seven Players like Arendse and Kolbe are no longer dismissed as “too young” for the rugby test, which is why we see more and more Blitzboks team stars turning their attention to 15-man rugby. Think Kolbe, think Kwagga Smith, think Arendse, and it becomes clearer than ever that the door to Springbok’s team is open to anyone producing consistent performance worthy of consideration.

In fact, Kolbe once shared a largely unknown – but highly significant – story about the unexpected way he was informed by former coach Rassie Erasmus that he would be making his Test debut.

The talented winger’s first call-up to the Springboks came before the Australian leg of the 2018 rugby championship and took many by surprise, including Kolbe himself.

“Literally my first real face-to-face chat with Coach Rassie was at the hotel reception; I was having my bags cut out and he had just come out of a meeting, ”Kolbe told this writer in 2020.

“He welcomed me into the team, he asked me how I felt and if there were any injury problems. I told him: “Thanks for the opportunity and that I’m 100% fine.” He responded by saying that if that’s the case, I’ll be on the bench for the next game. I stood there and could barely believe it, and wondered: is this how things happen here with such an open chat? “, Kolbe laughed.

Duly followed by the bench debut, but true heroism would come a week later when he scored a stunning interception try in the Springboks’ famous two-point win over the All Blacks in Wellington.

And thus began Kolbe’s so-called “love story” of playing in high-profile matches, with the world-class winger famously scoring a sensational try in both the triumphant 2019 Rugby World Cup final and the decisive third test against the British and the Irish Lions in 2021.

No easy task

Replacing a player of Kolbe’s qualities is no easy task, but the Bok coaches did not hesitate to reward Arendse for his impressive performance on his debut in the second Test against Wales.

It cannot be forgotten that the 26-year-old has not always been an automatic first pick at the Bulls during the United Rugby Championship, but once again the Boks have a unique perspective in assessing which players will fit into their system.

Last year, another superstar of the seven, Rosko Specman, was part of the Bok group, while Blitzboks teammate Seabelo Senatla was also invited to an alignment camp earlier this season.

Meanwhile, Angelo Davids has just completed a stunning campaign at the Commonwealth Games, scoring 10 tries to help the Springbok Sevens take gold. Suddenly, he is no longer beyond belief that one day he might follow in the footsteps of Kolbe and Arendse. The same could be said of another star of the seven JC Pretorius.

All of this speaks to a culture the Springboks have created where hard work and talent can be valued as much as strength and physicality. Players of all shapes and sizes can join this Bok squad, which is why hardly anyone flinched when Arendse was selected to start this weekend.

The status quo of South African rugby and the previous size-based selection narrative has really been shaken by the upper hierarchy of the Springboks in recent years and only serves to reinforce the depth available internationally.

READ MORE: Opinion: Springboks must follow Blitzboks lead as All Blacks await rugby showdown

The article Opinion: Kurt-Lee Arendse’s Decision, yet another reminder of Springboks’ open breeding philosophy, first appeared on Planetrugby.com.

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