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'Beggars belief' - Shock Springboks omission leaves SA fans perplexed

By Ian Cameron
Faf de Klerk of South Africa and team mates perform a drill during a South Africa training session on October 30, 2019 at Arcs Urayasu Park in Chiba, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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A major omission from Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber’s alignment camp has set tongues wagging in South Africa. Evan Roos has been on the tip of many a Springbok fan’s tongue in the last 12 months. The Stormers back-row had been forecast for big things, many seeing him as a natural successor to Duane Vermuelen.

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In fact, he even did a bit of a number on the 35-year-old when the two met in a recent United Rugby Championship match between Ulster and the Stormers.

Yet Roos has, rather sensationally, been left out of Nienaber’s Springboks alignment squad.

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The Boks will get their preparations for the Test rugby season underway on Sunday as Nienaber and his management team host the first of two so-called alignment camps. Typically the camps include all of their domestic Springboks hopefuls and given the number of players involved if you don’t make the selection it’s unlikely you’ll be in management plans for the coming season.

The omission of Roos, in particular, has left Bok fans scratching their heads, although Bulls loose forward Marcell Coetzee has also failed to make the cut despite fine form for the Jake White lead Pretorian franchise.

Popular pundit Mark Keohane wrote: “I am as bewildered as every rugby supporter would be that Roos can’t even crack a nod to an alignment camp, which spells out the next 18 months build-up to the 2023 World Cup. So much for the bluster about form being a factor.”

Fellow journalist Pierre de Villiers observed: “This actually beggars belief – especially the Evan Roos snub. Feared this might happen after Nienaber gave him very lukewarm praise last year.”

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South African sports writer Dylan Jack urged patience on the part of the young back rower: “Patience is required over Evan Roos. There is one more alignment camp next month and just being invited to the camp by no means guarantees selection. The young man’s time will come. Awesome to see Elrigh Louw’s form rewarded.”

The fear now is that Roos might be tempted to look abroad for further opportunities and there’s a precedent. France second row Paul Willemse left SA when he failed to make an 80-man alignment squad in 2015.

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This year there will also be alignment camps for overseas-based players in England and France, as well as virtual meetings, all of which will take place later this month.

With the Springboks’ first Test against Wales less than three months away, Nienaber believes the alignment camps are critical in getting the players in the correct mindset as they prepare for a crucial season that includes the Rugby World Cup in France next year.

“We are excited to get our season underway and these alignment camps are vital as we have not played for several months,” said Nienaber

“These sessions will ensure that we are all on the same page on and off the field when we begin our official training sessions. Most of these activities will involve boardroom sessions where we set objectives and align in terms of our planning.

“We will host similar camps with our overseas-based players in the next few weeks, but the door is not shut for other players to be invited to the remaining camps.

“It is also important to emphasise that being invited to these camps by no means is a guarantee of selection for the Castle Lager Incoming Tour squad, but rather an opportunity for the players to start switching into the mind-set required for the international season.”

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