Ruan Combrinck and Warrick Gelant would add real value to the Springboks’ Rugby Championship squad, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In the lead-up to the Boks’ third Test against France in June, Allister Coetzee spoke of the need to begin looking at expanding the team’s depth where possible, but ultimately made just one unenforced change as he handed prop Ruan Dreyer his debut.
As the dust settles on that series, though, Coetzee must surely recognise the need to bolster his backline ahead of the far greater challenges that await in the Rugby Championship.
In this regard, he has to consider a recall for Combrinck. Last year, the Lions star was the find of the season despite having his Rugby Championship campaign curtailed through injury.
Even in the midst of a team in trouble, Combrinck displayed all the qualities of a Test-quality winger: pace, power and physicality.
It’s these qualities that the Boks need to add to their arsenal as they head into the Rugby Championship, where the likes of Israel Folau and Julian Savea will be waiting to expose any weaknesses out wide.
Against a weak French side, the fact remains that while Raymond Rhule displayed the odd encouraging sign out on the right wing, his strength on defence remains a real concern, with a covering tackler often having to come to his aid.
According to the stats on AllOutRugby.com, Rhule missed the most tackles of any player in the June series (11), and while he completed 24, only one was a dominant hit.
Rhule doesn’t necessarily have to be jettisoned from the Bok squad, but defence clearly remains an area of his game that requires further work, and which would be sorely exposed in the Rugby Championship.
The good news is that Combrinck has shown in recent weeks that he is fully fit and hungry as ever for a return to the Springbok camp, with his hat-trick of tries against the Sunwolves this past Saturday providing a timely reminder of his abilities.
There shouldn’t really be any debate about it. Combrinck would only bolster an inexperienced backline, while his understanding with his fellow Lions teammates would be an additional boost.
Just as Combrinck has made a statement of intent in recent weeks, so Gelant has begun to rediscover the form that must make him a Springbok squad contender.
As it is, the Boks went into the June series against France with just one specialist fullback in Andries Coetzee, and while he certainly did enough to justify his place as the incumbent No 15, Gelant would add a quality alternative.
At the beginning of this year, the talented 22-year-old appeared to be one of those players stagnating in a troubled Bulls environment, but his involvement with the South Africa A side in June certainly appeared to bring the best out of him.
Boasting blistering pace and genuine X-factor, Gelant carried that form over into the Bulls’ clash against the Sharks last Friday, where he helped add some real attacking flair that has been so sorely missing from the Pretoria-based side.
There is no doubt that Gelant has both the physical attributes and overall skill set to make the transition to Test level, and the sooner he is exposed to the Springbok environment, the better.
Indeed, if Coetzee sticks with his policy of backing in-form players, he currently can’t look too much further than Gelant and Combrinck to bolster his backline stocks, with the the Boks’ Rugby Championship-opener against Argentina now just over a month away.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images