In the fifth instalment of a six-part series, JON CARDINELLI highlights the Springboks’ quality in depth and where the world champions can improve in the next four-year cycle.
South Africa is blessed with an abundance of locks. Even in the dark days of 2016 and 2017, the conveyor belt continued to deliver quality all-round specimens and the Springboks continued to set a high standard at the scrum and lineout.
What’s more, South Africa is fortunate to have a surplus of second-row forwards that have the skills to perform whether the Boks favour a pragmatic or a more expansive approach. Lood de Jager, for example, is the best lineout manager available to the Boks, but also has a reputation for silky tip-passing and thumping defence.
One would hope to see the Boks persisting with a balanced approach in the years to come. While De Jager and other members of the ‘Awesome Foursome’ – Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert and RG Snyman – made telling contributions in open play last season, their performances at the set pieces ultimately set the Boks up for victory in the Rugby Championship and World Cup tournaments.
De Jager and Mostert should remain the go-to men as far as calling the lineout – and making the big individual set-piece plays – is concerned. Both are in the prime of their careers and will be 28 and 30, respectively, by the time the British & Irish Lions arrive in 2021.
It wouldn’t surprise me if one or both of these players are still in the mix come the 2023 World Cup. Much will depend on form and injuries, of course. De Jager, in particular, has endured more than his fair share of setbacks since winning the SA Rugby Player of the Year Award in 2015.
|NO 4||NO 5|
|2019 WORLD CUP SQUAD MEMBERS||EBEN ETZEBETH (85), RG SNYMAN (23)||LOOD DE JAGER (45), FRANCO MOSTERT (39)|
|OTHER SQUAD MEMBERS 2018-2019||JASON JENKINS (1)||MARVIN ORIE (3)|
|POSSIBLE BOLTERS||SALMAAN MOERAT||JD SCHICKERLING, HYRON ANDREWS|
*Test caps in brackets
Rassie Erasmus brought Lions No 5 Marvin Orie into the wider squad at the start of 2018. At the end of that season, however, another up-and-comer in JD Schickerling was picked to tour Europe with the Boks – although the Stormers lock didn’t receive a cap.
Expect to see these players receiving more opportunities as the Boks look to bolster their depth in this area. While South Africa have enough cover when De Jager, Mostert, Snyman, Etzebeth and the versatile Pieter-Steph du Toit are all fit and available, it won’t hurt to develop another specialist No 5 with the future in mind.
Etzebeth was at his physical best at the 2019 World Cup. Snyman, however, appears to be in the same freak-of-nature category as Du Toit – a formidable hulk of a specimen that can run all day and pass like an inside centre. And like Du Toit, the number on Snyman’s back doesn’t typically prescribe his role.
Consider who else is pushing for an opportunity at this stage. The athletic Hyron Andrews has thrived in a Sharks set-up that has favoured a balanced approach. Stormers No 4 Salmaan Moerat was one of South Africa’s most physical and accurate defenders in the first seven rounds of the Super Rugby tournament.
Jason Jenkins represented the Boks in one Test back in 2018. A giant even in the South African context – at 2.01m and 122kg – Jenkins has shown that he has the skill and awareness to complement his natural power. Prior to joining Toyota Verblitz, Jenkins occasionally featured on the flank for the Vodacom Bulls. And, at 24, he has not yet realised his full potential.
Photos: Steve Haag – HollywoodBets/Mike Hunt – EPA