A forecast of fine weather for Edinburgh this Saturday should encourage Bok coach Rassie Erasmus to hand Embrose Papier his first start at scrumhalf, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
South Africa will be without their first-choice scrumhalf this weekend. World Rugby Player of the Year nominee Faf de Klerk has returned to the Sale Sharks, with Erasmus set to weigh up whether Ivan van Zyl or Papier should take over at No 9.
The fact remains that the scrumhalf pecking order beyond De Klerk still remains somewhat unclear. Both Van Zyl and Papier are in their first year of international rugby, while Ross Cronjé and now Louis Schreuder have been the other players on the periphery.
It’s also been a challenging balancing act for the Boks on tour, with De Klerk missing the opening game against England, while then returning to face France, before exiting the national camp once again.
While it is a significant blow for the Boks to lose De Klerk, it does provide an opportunity for the backup scrumhalves to bank some much-needed game time.
Van Zyl started in the tour opener against England, with Erasmus explaining at the time that the conditions and tactical plans had factored into his selection ahead of Papier.
In fairness, the 23-year-old did a solid job, with some of his contestable kicking particularly paying dividends. Overall, Van Zyl enjoyed 75 minutes of game time at Twickenham to go with his start against Wales back in June, as well as two previous appearances off the bench.
In many regards, though, Papier is a rather different scrumhalf to Van Zyl. Just 21 years old, Papier is blessed with electric pace and the exuberance of youth.
Although the former Junior Springbok has worked very hard at his passing and box-kicking game, he is a naturally attack-minded scrumhalf who will offer sniping threats around the fringes. Despite his diminutive stature, Papier is also a tenacious defender.
It would be a bold but exciting prospect for the youngster to make his first start for the Boks after five previous and limited appearances off the bench.
The weather forecast suggests it will be cool and clear in Edinburgh on Saturday, and it’s the sort of conditions that will certainly suit Papier, who is more of a like-for-like replacement for De Klerk.
Erasmus has already otherwise hinted this week that he is likely to limit unenforced changes, but the time has now surely arrived to have an extended look at what Papier can offer as a more instinctive No 9.
The Bok team will be named at 4pm (SA time) on Thursday.
POLL: With Faf de Klerk unavailable, who should start at scrumhalf for the @Springboks at Murrayfield?
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) November 13, 2018
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