Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says Franco Mostert has more than enough familiarity with playing at flank to make a success of the necessitated move, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The injury to Pieter-Steph du Toit – sustained when he was lifted and dumped by Duhan van der Merwe off the ball – has brought about a double alteration to the Springboks’ starting forward pack.
Mostert will shift from the second row to blindside flank, while Lood de Jager comes off the bench to start at No 5.
It means the Springboks will have no specialist lock replacement on the bench, with plenty of responsibility falling on the shoulders of Mostert to make a success of his transition to flank while also covering the second row in case of injury.
In one fell swoop, it makes Mostert one of the most integral players to the Springboks’ cause, particularly as Nienaber has now reverted to a five-three forwards-to-backs split on the bench.
At Tuesday’s team announcement news conference, the Bok head coach said they had no hesitation in shifting Mostert to flank, a position where he was used quite regularly during the latter parts of his Lions career in Johannesburg.
‘With regard to Pieter-Steph, he was the 2019 World Player of the Year, and he was so accustomed to the role he had to play, but Franco has covered us a lot there.
‘You would have seen we’ve moved him there before in games, and he’s always a guy in the preparation weeks who needs to know both roles, and you could see from the past weekend there was no issue moving him there [when De Jager came on].’
Nienaber added that Du Toit was seeing a specialist and only later this week did they expect to know the full extent of the injury.
However, it does appear that there are real fears that it could be quite serious, which does not bode well for the remainder of the Test season.
‘He hasn’t come off a lot during Test matches, and we’re hoping it’s not too serious, but it was a worry to see him come off.’
Meanwhile, Nienaber provided an update on Duane Vermeulen, who has returned to the Bok camp, but is still working his way back to a point where he could be considered for selection.
‘Duane is in a process of return to play, and the first phase is return to training. He obviously has got through his rehab, and is now back in training. We just got him back into the mix for some training, but we would never play him until he is 100% ready. He would also need to be confident in his own fitness and conditioning, and back up to speed with how we do things.
‘But we have the Rugby Championship coming up, and there will be strict Covid protocols in terms of calling up players when we travel to Australasia, so we wanted to get him reintegrated back into the team as quick as possible.’