SA A stars can make their mark

An exciting backline must be given the freedom to express themselves when South Africa A take on the England Saxons in Bloemfontein on Friday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann has taken charge of the SA A side, and while he would have put some sound structures in place, he’s also sure to encourage his talented charges to play it as they see it.

With the fleet-footed Garth April at flyhalf, there is plenty of X factor in the SA A backline, which includes Howard Mnisi at inside centre, and a dynamic back three consisting of Courtnall Skosan, Travis Ismaiel and Leolin Zas.

For the Saxons, plenty of attention will be centred around the performance of Danny Cipriani, who has 14 England caps and who will be looking to send out a reminder to Eddie Jones about his capabilities.

Similarly, every player in the SA A team will want to catch the eye of Allister Coetzee, who is sure to be watching the encounter closely.

In the pack, four forwards have already represented the Boks, with captain Oupa Mohoje, Nizaam Carr, Stephan Lewies and Vincent Koch adding some considerable firepower up front.

There is plenty of value to this series against the England Saxons, which will run concurrently with the Boks’ Tests against Ireland. The Saxons are an outfit that has been together for some time, and they will provide a stern test for their South African counterparts, but there is a strong blend between youth and experience in the SA A group.

Look out for the likes of JD Schickerling, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Scarra Ntubeni, who have been outstanding for the Stormers in Super Rugby, while Francois Venter will add some real go-forward at outside centre.

There’s no doubt it should be an entertaining encounter in Bloemfontein on Friday night, and if a strong SA A pack can lay a solid foundation, there is certainly enough talent in the backline to put the Saxons to the sword.

South Africa A – 15 Leolin Zas, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Garth April, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Oupa Mohoje (c), 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Thomas du Toit.

Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Lukhanyo Am.

England Saxons – 15 Mike Haley, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Semesa Rokoduguni, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Sam Jones, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Don Armand, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Dave Attwood (c), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Subs: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Micky Young, 22 Sam James, 23 Christian Wade.

Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Jaco Kotze (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis