While the mysterious absence of RG Snyman has depowered the Bomb Squad, it has magnified South Africa’s achievements in 2021, writes ZELIM NEL.
Eben Etzebeth has proven he is more than capable of leading the Bok lineout and, in the season leading up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the imperious form of RG Snyman made a strong case for pairing the Affies Goliath with Etzebeth in a PG18 second row at the Big Show in Tokyo.
Rassie Erasmus chose to inject Snyman off the bench and that turned out to be good enough for a 32-12 victory over England in the final.
Fast forward to 2021 and the Boks’ abrupt return to play from a long hiatus to tackle the British & Irish Lions. With De Jager also racing to recover from injury in time for the series, Snyman was expected to have a crack at playing an expanded role in the Bok plan – that is until June when he and Munster teammate Damian de Allende reported to the ER in Ireland with burns from a fire-pit incident.
The Bok duo reportedly suffered burns to their “legs, hands and face”, but the official line was that both had escaped serious damage and were still in contention to line up against the Lions.
However, while De Allende retained the No 12 jersey for the first Test on 24 July, Snyman wasn’t in contention for a place in the squad. It was repeatedly suggested that the lock’s comeback was imminent but, six weeks after the Lions edged the Boks 22-17 at Cape Town Stadium, Snyman has not been seen on a rugby field, omitted from South Africa’s Rugby Championship tour and tentatively pencilled in for to return in October.
“He will potentially be available sometime in October, not necessarily the start of October,” said Munster coach Johann van Graan.
There’s ‘potentially’ much more to Snyman’s injury status than meets the eye but, until all is revealed, his extended absence multiplies the value of the Boks’ achievements this year.
In Tokyo, Snyman and Franco Mostert steamed off the bench in relief of Etzebeth and De Jager. In Gold Coast on Sunday, the Bok pack will lose half a metre in height and upwards of 40kg in power as Mostert starts in place of injured world-beating blindside flank Pieter-Steph du Toit and the bench features groundhogs Marco van Staden and Kwagga Smith.
With Duane Vermeulen’s return from injury insured by Jasper Wiese, the Boks’ six-two bench now features three loose forwards for the first time since Erasmus took over in 2018.
It’s far from ideal and that’s why a rare win in Queensland will further terrify South Africa’s rivals. If the depleted Boks can beat the Lions, hammer Argentina, squash the Wallabies and scalp the All Blacks at least once in the Rugby Championship, who is going to stop the world champions when Snyman and Du Toit are both back in the frame?