Laurie Mains. (Getty Images)
- Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids is undeterred by former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains’ view that the national side has “four to five” players not fit for Test rugby.
- Mains, who coached in SA too, didn’t name the players specifically, but seem to reference them.
- Davids states that the Boks’ thorough selection policy means every players in the squad is there on merit.
Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids diplomatically shrugged off stinging criticism by former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains over the national team’s style of play and resources.
The 75-year-old Mains, New Zealand’s mentor in the 1995 World Cup final and also the Lions and erstwhile Cats coach in Super Rugby, in particular questioned the ability of “four or five” players in the Boks’ current XV.
Without referencing specific names, he intimated that Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi – SA’s wingers in last weekend’s loss to the Wallabies – as well as either Damian de Allende or Lukhanyo Am aren’t good enough for the highest level while also noting some of the props lack athleticism.
“I think there’s four or five players in that team that simply are not up to test level, and I think you’ll see that the All Blacks’ three-quarters will run riot against them,” Mains told New Zealand’s Stuff.
“The centre and the two wings look simply just not good enough to be playing at that level.
“And, I’d have some questions over one or two of their forwards too. It’s all very well they have big strong props, but boy, they’ve got to be mobile.”
Wary of becoming involved in a highly subjective debate, Davids – who admits he hasn’t read the article – stated that every individual is entitled to his or her opinion.
“Coaches have different philosophies and ideas about players. It’s always been the case and will be so in the future too,” he said on Monday, ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with the All Blacks in Townsville.
“This opinion is the opinion of one man and he’s got the right to it. It’s definitely not mine and I believe a lot of us don’t hold (Mains’) view.”
Mains’ perception of the Boks’ midfielders is curious given that there’s widespread agreement that Am has been one of the standout performers this international season and one of the South African backs to genuinely improve from post-World Cup levels.
De Allende has also, arguably, been South Africa’s most consistent back in 2021.
Davids pointed out that the Springboks’ selection strategy is a carefully crafted, stats-driven process.
“I can assure you that the players we have in camp here are here on merit,” he said.
“They are present after a thorough selection process, according to criteria that we’ve identified as coaches. I definitely don’t think we (have any doubts about the abilities of the players) we have here with us.
“It’s definitely not the case.”
The Springboks will reveal their team to face the old enemy on Tuesday.