Foreign-based Boks keen to come home Proteas still have a series draw to chase
● The Springboks will get help from abroad when they take on England in June.
Some of South Africa’s foreign legion are apparently willing to return before mid-year, which will make them eligible to play against the Six Nations champions. SA Rugby policy is that foreign-based players with fewer than 30 tests are ineligible for selection. Players can circumvent that by briefly playing in the country before the June internationals.
“Quite a few guys want to come home. About five,” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander without revealing their identities.
“They are finishing up (in Europe). Some will be available from the middle of Super Rugby. They will be contracted to a province.
“They may not necessarily be absorbed into Super Rugby but if they play here they are eligible,” said Alexander, who did not elaborate on the identity of the players.
A player known to be coming off contract is influential loose forward Duane Vermeulen. Vermeulen has played more than 30 tests and would be an automatic selection in a Bok match-day group of 23.
His club Toulon last month confirmed he would be leaving the club but it has been reported that Vermeulen may have a final fling abroad with a short-term deal in Japan.
That means he will be out of contention for the Rugby Championships but he may still feature against England in June.
His availability may affect who ultimately wears the captain's armband.
When Alexander was asked whether Warren Whiteley would resume his role as captain after missing the bulk of last season through injury he said: “The coach will determine whether he wants continuity or whether he wants to change. I think it would be stupid to change it now, if you have a group of players who can lead. There are a number of players who can lead the team.”
Meanwhile, the Springbok management team will be “lean and mean”, with greater reliance on consultants.
Alexander said the coaching group is supposed to be finalised in the next week or two. The group will have a new look about it after Allister Coetzee’s sacking, while assistant coach Franco Smith has also departed the scene having agreed to resume the top coaching job at the Cheetahs.
What is apparent is that the new coaching group will have fewer permanent appointees as SA Rugby tries to stay within budget. “It will be a lean and mean team,” said Alexander. “Do you need people on a full-time basis? That's where you can bring consultants in.
“If the coach feels the team needs to brush up their skills under the high ball, then they can get a specialist but then he leaves when he's done. He doesn’t have to be with the team all the time,” explained Alexander. at the Wanderers
● The Proteas sprung to life and for that they can partly thank the revitalising qualities of the rain that made for a start-stop fourth ODI and PinkDay here yesterday.
Having gone 3-0 down in the series the hosts were perhaps in need of some divine intervention and much like last year they delivered a splendid rearguard action to snatch victory from an improbable position.
The win prevented India from wrapping up the series and the hosts can still deny the tourists honours with victory in the two remaining ODIs.
Two rain interruptions yesterday meant they had to cut to the chase with a Duckworth/Lewis revised target in reply to India's daunting, yet tantalising 289/7 in 50. The Proteas made 207/5, getting home with 15 balls to spare.
Unlike earlier in the series when India had the Proteas’ batters in a flat spin, the tourists couldn’t get the same purchase on the slightly damp ball.
Heinrich Klaasen, 43 not out off 27 balls, and David Miller, 39 (off 28), got the Proteas within touching distance before Andile Phehlukwayo, 23 (off five), unleashed some fire and fury.
Klaasen got the man of the match award. Hashim Amla (33) and AB de Villiers (26) partly laid a foundation earlier in the innings but both fell at inopportune moments. When De Villiers was caught at fine leg the Proteas cause almost seemed lost.
India, however, in particular spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, were left to rue an elementary error when he bowled Miller with a no-ball with the batsman on seven and the Proteas wobbling on what would have been 106/5 in the 18th over.
Earlier Shikhar Dhawan (109) in concert with Virat Kohli (75) had propelled India into a position of promise.
Few players go about scoring runs with so much verve, vigour and intent as Kohli. He is consumed by the desire to present the middle of the bat as firmly to the ball as possible.
As for Dhawan, the middle of his bat wasn’t a prerequisite for longevity at the crease. The inside edge of his bat proved quite profitable, but then it would if the ball keeps evading the keeper.
He stuck it out and became the first Indian batsman to reach three figures in his 100th ODI.
India’s momentum, however, was broken by an earlier shower. The players left the field moments after India reached an imperious 200/2 off 34.2 overs. They spent 52 minutes off before conditions were deemed safe.
India didn't finish with the flourish they had hoped for, in part due to a catch Spiderman would have been proud of by stand-in skipper Aiden Markram at cover when he got rid of dangerous Hardik Pandya.