Bok coach Rassie Erasmus believes the time is right to have a closer look at Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronjé, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Cronjé started 10 Tests for the Springboks in 2017, and while he may not have set the Test scene alight in that debut season, he was certainly one of the team’s more solid performers in the final year of Allister Coetzee’s tenure.
The 29-year-old has never been the flashiest of players, but his distribution and decision-making are generally on point, while he often punches above his weight defensively.
Cronjé missed out on Bok selection this past June as he continued his recovery from an injury, with friend and former teammate Faf de Klerk returning from the Sale Sharks to make an immediate impression in the three-Test series against England.
De Klerk is sure to remain the first-choice scrumhalf heading into the upcoming Rugby Championship, but Erasmus is keeping his options open with the inclusion of four scrumhalves in the 35-man squad that was named on Monday.
Over the course of the June Tests, Erasmus alternated between Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier as the back-up scrumhalf to De Klerk, but Cronjé appears set for an opportunity during the Rugby Championship.
‘We know where we are going with the young scrumhalves in the squad like Embrose and Ivan,’ Erasmus commented. ‘We have different No 9s in the mix, but we also can’t keep ignoring the guy who has taken a team to the Super Rugby final again.
‘I’ve never worked with Ross, and to be fair on him, it’s the right time to get some eyes on him.’
It’s a similar sort of approach when it comes to the inclusion of Lwazi Mvovo, who has received a Bok recall for the first time since 2016, and which appears to be based on his ability to cover both wing and fullback capably.
‘In terms of what I feel we need in our back three, Lwazi will bring that to the current system,’ Erasmus said. ‘Having worked with him during the alignment camps earlier this year, I just think he is the right fit.’
Besides touching on these selections, Erasmus also dropped a strong hint that André Esterhuizen remains in line for another starting opportunity at inside centre at a time when injury clouds continue to hang over Damian de Allende and Jan Serfontein.
‘Damian is not officially in the squad, but he is not far away from being ready, and I thought he was one of the guys who was slowly getting back to his best.
‘It’s been a bit tough for André. Both games that he started [in June] were in wet conditions, which is not the easiest for the bigger guys, so I think he deserves a fair chance somewhere along the line.
‘Then there’s Jan, who is a guy at age-group level who experienced beating the Junior All Blacks, and you can never throw that away, but he had an injury he is busy sorting out. I went to see him [in France], and he’s very keen to play for us, but he wants to get back to form and fitness with his club first.’