Mariette Adams and Dylan Jack debate which uncapped player deserves Springbok recognition sooner rather than later.
Adams says Herschel Jantjies
*Disclaimer: This is not a call for Herschel Jantjies to be included in the Springboks’ World Cup squad.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to it.
Jantjies has been earmarked for success since his formative years at PC Petersen Primary. But it wasn’t until his days at Paul Roos, one of South African rugby’s biggest production lines, that Jantjies really emerged as a ‘future star’.
Playing primary as a fullback, he only started specialising as a scrumhalf in 2013 and what an inspired switch it’s proving to be. Jantjies made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut in the Stormers’ last game of the 2018 season against the Sharks and has played in 12 of their 13 matches so far this year, establishing himself as the Cape-side’s first-choice No 9.
He has been the top-performing scrumhalf, and one of the best players in general, in the South African conference throughout this campaign. His service at the back of the Stormers pack has been crisp, while he has provided some much-needed X factor in an otherwise underwhelming backline. Jantjies’ strong defence is another aspect of his game that has set him apart from the rest.
All that said, the bulk of coach Rassie Erasmus’ World Cup squad has in all probability been penciled in already, with the names of Faf de Klerk and Embrose Papier in the scrumhalf column. The third scrumhalf spot is still a lottery though, with capped duo Cobus Reinach and Ivan van Zyl as the leading candidates.
But the Rugby Championship is looming large and Jantjies – through his brilliant performances – is making it increasingly difficult for Erasmus to overlook him. South Africa’s depth at scrumhalf has been drained and the Springboks’ options limited, so it wouldn’t do much damage to fast-track Jantjies into the national set-up.
It would be just reward for the player and would set in motion the the beginning stages of a new, post-World Cup era for the Springboks.
Jack says Lizo Gqoboka
Out of all the players in the South African conference, very few have had to work as hard for as long, and stay as patient for a Springbok cap as Lizo Gqoboka. The 29-year-old has risen above poverty and humble beginnings to earn a place as the Vodacom Bulls’ first-choice loosehead.
There few opportunities for him upon his arrival in Pretoria from the Kings, playing mainly off the bench last year before picking up a toe injury which ruled him out of action towards the latter of the 2018 season. However, Gqoboka has come back with renewed energy and has shone in 2019.
Highly effective at scrum time, there have a number of tightheads that have felt the pain when facing Gqoboka at the set piece. However, it is in the tight-loose where Gqoboka has really improved.
According to Fox Sports stats, Gqoboka has made an incredible 361 running metres, more than the likes of Cornal Hendricks, Warrick Gelant and Handré Pollard. To go with that, he has made seven linebreaks and 16 tackle busts in the 14 games he has played in for the Bulls this year.
Granted, he does have both Steven Kitshoff and Tendai Mtawarira ahead of him in the Bok pecking order, but his performances this season will make it very difficult for Rassie Erasmus to deny him that long-awaited reward of an official Test cap.
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