John Smit believes the Springboks are more than capable of contending with the injuries to key players such as Pieter-Steph du Toit and Faf de Klerk, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The injury to Du Toit – sustained when he was lifted and dumped by Duhan van der Merwe off the ball – has brought about a double alteration to the Springboks’ starting forward pack for Saturday’s final Test against the British & Irish Lions.
Mostert will shift from the second row to blindside flank, while Lood de Jager comes off the bench to start at No 5 for the Boks.
It means the Springboks will have no specialist lock replacement on the bench, with plenty of responsibility falling on the shoulders of Mostert to make a success of his transition to flank while also covering the second row in case of injury.
In one fell swoop, it has made Mostert one of the most integral players to the Springboks’ cause, particularly as Jacques Nienaber has now reverted to a five-three forwards-to-backs split on the bench.
Meanwhile, when Nienaber unveiled his team for the final Test of the three-match series against the British & Irish Lions, it was interesting to see Cobus Reinach jettisoned straight into the starting lineup after he was not part of the match-day squad for the first two Tests.
However, rather than two roles needing to be changed after the injury to De Klerk, it will allow for Herschel Jantjies to continue in his impact role off the bench, while Reinach will start – as he did in the SA A game against the Bulls.
In an exclusive interview with SARugbymag.co.za, Smit said although the Boks would undoubtedly miss the presence of injured players like Du Toit and De Klerk, he insisted their replacements were more than capable of doing the job.
“It’s always a worry when you lose a player like Pieter-Steph and Faf. They’ve been integral for the last couple of years in Rassie and Jacques’ plans.
“But the one thing that stood out for me as a Springbok is when you realise, the week after you retire – the next game, there’s a guy in your place who’s playing well and he’s taken your place as if you were never there,’ the former Springbok captain commented with a wry chuckle.
“We have so many players who have the ability to fill that gap. You always think, if I retire it’s going to be so difficult [to replace me]. It’s not. Franco Mostert, for example, he played the majority of the second Test in Pieter-Steph’s position and he’s probably the contender for MVP of the series.
“Of course, coaches are like ‘I wish I could have Duane [Vermeulen], I wish I could have Faf, and I wish I could have RG Snyman’. There’s quite a list of players that they don’t have.
“But they still played well with the changes they made after Pieter-Steph went off. So they are blessed with a very good squad.”