Talented youngster Embrose Papier is in line to start his first Test when the Springboks take on Scotland in Edinburgh this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The 21-year-old is set to be provided with his first extended run in the Bok No 9 jersey following Faf de Klerk’s return to the Sale Sharks, and there is no doubt that the opportunity is fully deserved.
Papier made his debut in the Boks’ season-opener against Wales on 2 June, but came on as a 77th-minute replacement for the injured Makazole Mapimpi.
He also played off the bench in the Springboks’ third and final Test against England in June, but received just five minutes of game time after taking over from De Klerk in difficult conditions.
Papier has featured off the bench on three occasions since then, but only banked 18 minutes of game time in total.
The former Junior Springbok was an unused substitute against France last weekend, and while some pundits have begun to question the limited use of the Boks’ backup scrumhalves, the coaches have always maintained that there is a plan in place.
The Boks know what they have in De Klerk, who has made the No 9 jersey his own, while Ivan van Zyl has now enjoyed two Test starts, with his selection against England in the tour-opener based largely around conditions and tactical plans.
For the many fans crying out for Papier to receive a starting opportunity, though, those calls are set to be answered this week.
Before the Boks headed on tour, the youngster chatted to SA Rugby magazine, and explained that he had benefited from his time in the national camp, and was entirely comfortable with the plans around his gradual integration into international rugby.
‘I’ve known exactly where I stand,’ Papier commented. ‘Rassie [Erasmus] has been very honest, we’ve had meetings, and what he says makes sense. So I’ve known that I just need to stay patient.’
Throughout his time in the Bok camp, Papier explained that he had to absorb knowledge from the players around him, while working diligently on key facets of scrumhalf play.
‘My goal has been just to keep working on my basics, and to stay disciplined on and off the field. With an experienced scrumhalf like Faf around, I’ve learned a lot from him, and he’s the kind of guy who would always come to me and help me out, or just tell me to keep my head up.
‘I’ve really learned a lot this year, and realised that I just needed to be patient, and that my time would come. I’ve worked hard on things like my fitness, passing and box kicking, and now I just want to grab any opportunity that comes my way.’
Papier’s elevation to the starting lineup is expected to be the only change to the Bok backline, but there will be some changes to the pack.
It appears that Eben Etzebeth may struggle to take up his place in the starting lineup due to the troublesome ankle injury he suffered against England, with RG Snyman likely to earn his first start since June if that proves to be the case.
An injury to Warren Whiteley will see Duane Vermeulen shift to No 8, with Pieter-Steph du Toit returning to his preferred position at blindside flank.
Springboks (probable) – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Photo: Scott Taetsch/Gallo Images