Rabz Maxwane is a prime example of a player who presents an opportunity for Rassie Erasmus to walk the talk when it comes to investing in the Pro14 franchises, writes DYLAN JACK.
It is doubtful that Maxwane will get his Springbok opportunity this year. That much is a given when you are up against the likes of Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi.
In many ways, it is bitter-sweet that Maxwane’s finest season of professional rugby to date has had to come in 2019. The former Vodacom Bulls player has shown what he can do when given an extended run in a team.
However, in a year when the pressure is on Erasmus and on his coaching staff to produce results, with all the focus on final touches for the World Cup, there is little space for experimentation.
Saying that, it cannot be easy for the Springbok coach and SA Rugby director of rugby to keep his eyes off the speedster. For those not in the know, in his first full Pro14 season Maxwane scored 14 tries to equal former Scotland wing Tim Visser’s record.
That would have made him the top South African try-scorer in the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby season, and comfortably top among the South African back threes in 2018.
Further, 34 clean breaks (rank one overall) and 1 138 metres gained (rank three) highlight the impressiveness of Maxwane’s 2018-2019 season.
Erasmus, who serves on the Pro14 board, will be well aware of Maxwane’s ability and should have a good idea of his potential. Having coached in the Pro14 with Munster, he will know very well how games often replicate the pressures of Test rugby.
He has also mentioned that players from the Pro14 will not be ignored.
‘In the Pro14 it is all about tactical awareness and the handling pressure,’ Erasmus said in February. ‘We are looking at all of these players, but we want consistency from these players.’
To date, only two players from the South African Pro14 franchises have been included in an Erasmus Springbok squad. Ox Nche and Oupa Mohoje both started in the throwaway Test against Wales in Washington DC last June, which obviously stretched Erasmus’ player resources.
To be fair, the Cheetah’s and Kings’ performances in the Pro14 have left little to shout about, and when a Springbok coach is appointed halfway through a World Cup cycle, it is very difficult for that coach to put risk into their selections.
However, at 23 years old, Maxwane is the perfect player to bring into the squad in an apprenticeship role, someone who can start getting exposed to the Boks’ training regime and the expectations from a Bok wing.
The product of Dale College, and former schoolboy teammate of Dyantyi, has previously told SARugbymag.co.za of his drive to be the best.
‘I want to be the best in my position and a leader within the team,’ Maxwane said. ‘Obviously I’m young and still have a lot to learn. This is my first season playing from game one and getting an extended run, but I’m always learning and looking at ways to improve, not just in terms of on-field performances, but also improving my understanding of the game.
‘You can never be perfect as a person or as a player, so there’s always room for improvement. My wish is to be able to inspire my teammates and lead by example.’
After not making it at Western Province or the Bulls, Maxwane is used to doing things the hard way. You can be certain he will fight along every inch to keep Erasmus’ attention on the Pro14.
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