Ten Vodacom Stormers players have been included in Jake White’s Springbok rugby squad for a camp that starts on Wednesday in Bloemfontein.
Lock Andries Bekker has been rewarded for some good performances this year and is the only Cape newcomer. Coach Kobus van der Merwe lauded Bekker and said he deserves to be there, but had words of comfort for Ross Skeate, who was desperately unlucky not to make the squad.
“I am very glad for Andries’ part. The guys have speculated a lot about that and I think it is due to a good performance by the pack this year,” said Van der Merwe.
“Ross was just as good and it is always bad for the one guy when the other gets selected, but they support each other. I am glad for Andries and I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”
The coach, however, expressed his disappointment about Stormers flank Luke Watson’s non-inclusion. Watson was a tower of strength for his team this year and one of the best loosies in the competition.
“I just think you should have a set of criteria that rewards players for consistently performing. I think Luke has consistently performed over the duration of the Super 14. What more must a guy do?
“The message we sent out when we say ‘you’ll never play for South Africa’ – you know that is the reason why we have so many guys playing overseas. Quality performance throughout the campaign must be rewarded and I’m not saying pick Luke for the starting line-up.
“I think any coach should have the prerogative to pick the players he feels could do the job for him, because it is his head on the line. But I also think 45 guys in a squad and Luke not there, that is a bit strange.”
The exciting hooker Schalk Brits is another Stormers star who could feel disappointed.
“It is the same case as Luke,” commented Van der Merwe. “Any coach has reasons why he selects or don’t select players.
“Schalk, unfortunately, is left with the shortest stick in the hand. We support them and I told both of them you can’t keep a good man down. They should just keep on fighting and keep on playing and hopefully they will get their chance.”
The Stormers in the squad are:Eddie Andrews, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Hanyani Shimange, De Wet Barry, Tonderai Chavhanga, Bolla Conradie, Jean de Villiers, Marius Joubert.