Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Malcolm Marx and Courtnall Skosan would all be fully deserving of Springbok call-ups for the Rugby Championship, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
At the end of May, Allister Coetzee included seven Lions players in his first Springbok squad for the June series against Ireland.
It was a good move that rewarded form, and which also reaped just rewards. Faf de Klerk was one of the standout players over the three Tests, while Elton Jantjies grew in confidence during the course of the series.
Lionel Mapoe looked solid in his three starts at outside centre, while Ruan Combrinck was undoubtedly the find of the series. Warren Whiteley made an impressive impact off the bench and deservedly started the final Test, where he played through the pain of a shoulder injury to make a whopping 22 tackles.
Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel and Julian Redelinghuys also enhanced their reputations with impressive cameos off the bench. Ultimately, the performances of all seven players served as a reflection of the form and confidence that has been so infectious in the Lions’ set-up this season.
And when chatting to the likes of Whiteley, Combrinck and De Klerk during the June series against Ireland, each one of them readily acknowledged that the cohesive team environment at the Johannesburg-based franchise had enabled them to stand out as individuals.
Since returning to Super Rugby action after the June Test series, the Lions and their litany of stars have shown no signs of slowing down.
In fact, more and more players continue to stand out. Inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg has simply been immense in the last two games he’s played for the Lions.
Against the Kings at the beginning of July, he scored two tries, made 104m, beat five defenders and completed three clean breaks. This past Saturday, he once again starred in the Lions’ impressive quarter-final victory over the Saders, with the burly midfielder scoring one try, making 72m and beating five defenders.
Considering that Jan Serfontein is still sidelined with a serious ankle injury and that Damian de Allende has been far from his best this season, there is no doubt that Janse van Rensburg would be a worthy addition to the Bok squad.
Similarly, the claims of Marx can surely no longer be ignored. Big, strong and athletic, Marx has come into his own this season, and was once again in irrepressible form against the Crusaders.
Besides boasting impressive physical attributes, the talented 22-year-old has a real omnipresence with his mobility around the park and effectively plays like an extra loose forward.
Although Adriaan Strauss is the Springboks’ incumbent hooker and captain, there is the potential for both Marx and Bongi Mbonambi to provide some stiff competition and considerable firepower as the back-up hookers.
There is also no doubt that Skosan is increasingly looking like a Springbok in waiting. The fleet-footed winger has emerged as one of the most lethal finishers in Super Rugby this season, as illustrated by his nine-try competition tally and superb execution in scoring the Lions’ first try against the Crusaders.
Lwazi Mvovo endured his struggles against Ireland, and may battle to hold down a place in the Bok squad for the Rugby Championship, although it will be interesting to see if the 33-year-old Bryan Habana earns a recall.
Either way, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the advances of Skosan, who has been one of the Lions’ unsung heroes this season.
The Lions continue to be the one shining light in SA rugby, and their style of play has dispelled the notion that South African players don’t have the skills or ability to embrace an ambitious Kiwi-like brand of rugby.
These players deserve to be tested at international level, and as the seven Lions players proved in June, their form in Super Rugby can be translated to the highest level.
Similarly, Janse van Rensburg, Marx and Skosan certainly now look ready to take that next step up to Test rugby.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images