In New Zealand, the same doubtless applies, though the scrutiny will be even more intense as everyone who claims any allegiance to the Silver Fern will be weighing up prospective squad selections for the tour of New Zealand by the British and Irish Lions in June and July. Strangely, it was the somewhat eclectic thought process of Dave the Silent, a man who claims no intrinsic knowledge of the nuances of rugby football, that had connected the dots and set the ball rolling.
“I have watched the opening two games of the Six Nations with some interest,” the Silent One remarked to the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer, the selfstyled expert on all things of a sporting nature,” and I have noticed something quite astounding. Which,” he continued with a hidden wink to the rest of the usual gathering, “I thought you, with your knowledge of the game, could expand on for me.”
True to form, his Arithmetically-challenged companion accepted the unsolicited compliment without the faintest hint of a blush. “Sure,” he said. The Silent One risked another surreptitious wink.
“If the Home Countries exclude the French in their deliberations on the touring party, are there players of other nations who have the door slammed?” The Arithmetically-challenged One considered for a moment before offering a non-committal “not necessarily” and launching into a long and involved recital of the rules and regulations as he understood them. “I see,” said the Silent One.
“What about this South African flanker CJ Stander in the Irish side? You know, the one who flattened Pat Lambie when they toured here last year. “Surely, he must have a strong chance after scoring three tries in the hammering the Irish handed out to Italy? And he was outstanding against the Scots, even if the Irish lost the game at Murrayfield.”
The Arithmetically-challenged One pondered afresh. “Certainly,” he conceded, “CJ is big enough to stand up to the New Zealanders and he’s qualified by residence. But there was that loss against Scotland which could go against him.” It was time for the Silent One to hesitate. “What about that big bearded guy Josh Strauss who plays No 8 for the Scots. He’s also been outstanding in the games I’ve seen him play.”
The Arithmetically-challenged one had to admit that, yes, there was nothing to stop either of them making the touring party that he could see – except some in-built bias. “Well,” replied the the Silent One, “there could well be two South Africans wearing the colours of the British Lions later this year and perhaps they could add something special in New Zealand.
“Certainly they could teach the tourists some interesting lineout calls.”