Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is excited by the enthusiasm, pace and potential of young scrumhalf Embrose Papier, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Cape Town.
The 21-year-old former Junior Springbok is set to earn his second Test cap should he come off the bench in Saturday’s third and final clash between the Boks and England at Newlands.
The scrumhalf position has been a problematic one for some time at national level, with the Boks having been desperately searching for a locally-based player to stake a compelling claim for the No 9 jersey.
In the end, Erasmus opted to recall Faf de Klerk from the Sale Sharks – a move only made possible after the 30-cap eligibility ruling for overseas-based players was recently scrapped – while Ivan van Zyl provided cover in the first two Tests against England.
Papier has long been regarded as one of the most exciting scrumhalf talents in South African rugby, though, and there is sure to be great anticipation should he receive an extended run on Saturday.
‘Embrose is lightning fast, one of the fastest guys in the team,’ Erasmus enthused on Thursday following the team announcement. ‘He’s a youngster who obviously has some work-ons, but he is a naturally attack-minded player who can speed up the game, while he understands the defensive system and tackles well.
‘I think he has also been groomed really well at the Bulls by [coach] John Mitchell, who has managed his game time carefully. I’m sure he will make the odd mistake, but I’m really excited by his energy, speed and enthusiasm.’
There is also sure to be plenty of excitement over Warrick Gelant’s first Test start in the No 15 jersey, which is one of four changes to the backline for Saturday’s clash at Newlands.
‘We all know what Warrick can do with the ball in hand, but I think his kicking game has also really improved,’ Erasmus commented. ‘He can kick off both feet, which is really valuable, and he’s executed some wonderful clearance kicks when he’s come on so far.
‘If there is dry weather this Saturday, I think we’ll see the typical sort of [attacking] play from Warrick, but even it’s wet, it will be good to see how he performs, and we can learn a lot from that.’
Meanwhile, in a new-look midfield pairing, burly Sharks centre André Esterhuizen will have a golden opportunity to demonstrate that he has the qualities to make the No 12 jersey his own in the future.
Erasmus said it was encouraging to have a number of options at inside centre.
‘Damian and André are both similar sorts of players, who bring a bit of physical grunt, while they are great defenders and momentum creators. André does have a bit of extra size and a few subtle differences such as his offloading ability, so it will be great to see what he can offer and to have guys fighting hard for that World Cup squad.’
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