The selection of players playing in Japan and Europe has given the Springboks added strength, which might be a worrying concern for the northern hemisphere nations.
In years gone by, any player not playing their club or provincial rugby in New Zealand, Australia or South Africa were not considered for international selection. A firm stance, which stressed the importance of Super Rugby to national team aspirations, in addition to the local competitions such as the Currie Cup and National Provincial Championship.
Jake White broke the mould by selecting a couple of players playing overseas – most notably Percy Montgomery and Butch James. Montgomery would be the full-back in Jake White’s World Cup and Tri-Nations winning squad, Butch James was White’s ever-reliable flyhalf.
Since then, the selection of foreign-based players has been nothing new for a South African side. With the strength of the Euro, Pound, Yen or Dollar against the South African Rand, players are earning more abroad, without the gruelling schedule of Super Rugby which may see players play 16–19 games in a Super Rugby season.
Embracing the concept used by national team coaches in football, the ‘Global Boks’ have a wider pool of players to choose from, ensuring the competitiveness of the national team remains intact – which is needed in an era where New Zealand have become near-invincible!
Argentina’s success at the last two World Cups was built on the backbone of many players playing in Europe. Some southern hemisphere pundits have gone as far as saying that for that very reason, Argentina would have been better-suited to the Six Nations rather than the Tri-Nations, a very debatable point!
The worrying factor for the Northern Hemisphere will be when Australia and New Zealand adopt and embrace the concept. New Zealand would be even stronger, their depth would be the envy of the rugby-playing world. It could lead to the debate of the New Zealand Maori team becoming a fully-fledged test team playing in World Cups and Rugby Championships.
There can be no doubt Australia NEED to follow the route of the ’Global Boks’. A loss to the Lions, two humiliating defeats at home to the All Blacks and Springboks in which both teams picked up bonus points (scoring four tris) have left the Wallabies in a sorry state. Their record against their two biggest southern hemisphere rivals for 2013 reads played five, lost five.
The Wallabies need to select their foreign-based players to add depth to a weak pool of players. The additions of the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels to Super Rugby have weakened their other three sides, with players not being pushed for spots in their domestic franchises.
Youngsters opting to play Rugby League – it helps having a winning national team, or Australian football means the Wallabies are now scratching the surface for international-calibre players.
Players such as Matt Giteau, Salesi Ma’afu, Dean Mumm, Julian Salvi, George Smith, Digby Ioane, Brock James, Drew Mitchell are just a few names that could add depth and competition for places in the current Australian squad.
The front-row could use bulking-up as far as depth and competition goes.
Australia must expand their selection umbrella to remain competitive with the best in the world. Perhaps in years to come, players might be picked for the Wallabies off NRL and Super League performances – legalities permitting - but these are changing times as the southern hemisphere is getting stronger!
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