JON CARDINELLI looks at the backline stars of the 2016 Currie Cup who could strengthen their claim for Springbok selection with a convincing showing in the domestic decider on Saturday.
South African players are usually judged by their performances in the Super Rugby competition. It's in this tournament, which features international opposition, where players prove their readiness for Test rugby.
That said, these are desperate times for South African rugby. The Boks have lost five out of nine Tests in 2016. In terms of personnel, the Boks should be looking to bolster their backline stocks ahead of the four-game tour to Europe in November.
SARugbymag.co.za runs the rule over three players who will be looking to force their way into the Bok mix via a strong showing in the Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein. Several others, who are currently competing in the European leagues, should also be on the Bok selectors' radar.
Sergeal Petersen (Cheetahs)
The Bok selectors may be reluctant to pick Petersen due to his size (1.71m and 82kg). And yet, his impact with ball in hand this season has been difficult to ignore. The Cheetahs winger scored nine tries (the third most) in the Super Rugby tournament, and four to date in the Currie Cup. To put things in perspective, Petersen has only played 124 minutes of Currie Cup rugby this season.
Jamba Ulengo (Bulls)
In 2016, the Bulls have backed back-three players who have the size and strength to outmuscle their smaller counterparts in contact and in the air. Ulengo has proved himself to be a classy finisher, and has scored the joint-most tries (seven) in this year's Currie Cup.
Francois Venter (Cheetahs)
The Cheetahs No 13 has been lauded for his attacking influence at both Super Rugby and Currie Cup level. Where the Cheetahs have really improved over the past few months, though, is on defence. Venter has completed 42 out of 47 tackle attempts in the Currie Cup, and the Cheetahs as a unit conceded the fewest tries over the course of the league stage.
OTHERS IN THE MIX FOR A CALL-UP
Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Lions)
Bok coach Allister Coetzee hasn't got his midfield selections right in 2016. South Africa have lacked a strong ball-carrying No 12 with the ability to dominate the gainline. Janse van Rensburg had a good Super Rugby tournament, and must be elevated to the Boks sooner rather than later.
JP Pietersen (Leicester)
It's hard to believe that Coetzee considered the powerfully built winger surplus to requirements in the recent Rugby Championship campaign. South Africa's loss has been Leicester's gain, as the 2007 World Cup-winner has produced a string of impressive performances in the English Premiership. The Boks could do with a player of Pietersen's skill set and experience on a tour to the northern hemisphere.
Frans Steyn (Montpellier)
The Boks will need more than one strong option at No 12 when they tour Europe. Steyn offers physicality as well as a world-class kicking game, and could be a real asset to a South African team looking to maintain its unbeaten record against England. Steyn has been in great form for Montpellier in France this season.
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