Rassie Erasmus has managed to turn the Springboks’ back-three issues around by investing in specialist wings, writes DYLAN JACK.
Who would have thought, when the Springboks were forced to play Francois Hougaard on the wing against the Wallabies in 2016, that a couple of years later a new wave of specialists would help turn the situation around?
This is the case as the Boks head into the World Cup with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the back three, with Cheslin Kolbe, Sbu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi all emerging and taking their opportunities at Test level.
That is without mentioning Aphiwe Dyantyi, winner of the 2018 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award after an excellent debut season. The Lions flier will unfortunately probably miss the World Cup after struggling with a leg injury this year.
Former Springbok wing Breyton Paulse told SARugbymag.co.za he is delighted with the Springboks’ depth at wing.
‘We are in a good space,’ Paulse said. ‘Not only with regard to the back three but the whole team for that matter. It is really good to see that Rassie has instilled a bit of faith in specialised wingers.
‘I am actually excited talking about these guys. Suddenly we have strike power out wide. What has also been nice is that over the last year, these guys have had the time to play together. Those combinations have been building up over time. That is also very important.’
Where the Boks may have a conundrum is on the left wing, where Mapimpi is the only specialist in the squad. Nkosi has played in this position for both club and country, but is far better suited to the right, where his sidestepping ability is deadly.
Paulse says if the worst does happen, Kolbe and outside centre Jesse Kriel would be able to cover for Mapimpi’s absence.
‘You are going to have to make calls where you put faith in the situation. If there is a bit of a hiccup, a guy like Cheslin can play on the left. He is very versatile. If you really want, Jesse Kriel can also cover there. Jesse can fit into almost any position in that backline. We have all of our bases covered.’
Erasmus will also have a call to make as to whether he takes two specialist fullbacks in Willie le Roux and Warrick Gelant to the World Cup. Kolbe and Kriel can also cover fullback, while Frans Steyn has played in the position for Montpellier.
However, Paulse says he would include the 24-year-old Gelant in his squad.
‘I do feel Warrick is a very good player with a massive future,’ Paulse says. ‘With the kind of game he plays, he sometimes will make mistakes. That is normal for any young player, especially if you are trying things the whole time. On his day, he can go toe to toe with the best in the world. I would certainly take him with. He will excel with the calibre of player that is in the squad at the moment.’
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