With RG Snyman and Lood de Jager in a race against time for the British & Irish Lions series, SARugbymag.co.za breaks down the Springboks’ options at lock.
The Boks received a fresh blow to their second-row options as Munster confirmed that Snyman, who was in the final stages of his recovery from a torn ACL, suffered an unrelated injury that will require a minor procedure.
The procedure is expected to delay his return to training for a number of weeks, with it still unknown when exactly.
Snyman was part of the Springboks’ four 2019 World Cup-winning locks, along with Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert and Lood de Jager. The Springboks could already be without De Jager’s services for the tour, after the Sale Sharks player broke his leg in a freak training-session accident.
With that in mind, SARugbymag.co.za looks at the different options available to Bok coach Jacques Nienaber for the Lions series.
Natural successors: Marvin Orie, JD Schickerling, Jason Jenkins
All three these players have been involved in a Springbok training squad before and, in Orie and Jenkins’ case, have been capped.
Orie and Schickerling have recently been paired up at the Stormers following the former’s move from the Lions. Jenkins, meanwhile, is currently playing in Japan for Toyota Verblitz, but will soon join Snyman at Munster.
Given their previous involvement with the Springboks, these three present a natural ‘next-in-line’ approach, but it helps that they have all been in excellent form recently.
Young guns: Ruan Nortje, JJ van der Mescht, Ruben van Heerden, Salmaan Moerat, David Meihuizen
As what tends to happen with most injuries to senior players, an opportunity could arise for a younger player to make his name in the series.
Thankfully, South Africa aren’t lacking for numbers or talent among their youthful second rowers.
Ruan Nortje has shown level-headedness and temperament beyond his years in helping the Bulls claim the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup double. JJ van der Mescht and Ruben van Heerden have both caught the eye at the Sharks with a number of physical performances.
In the Western Cape, Salmaan Moerat has been earmarked as a future Springbok and potential captain, while David Meihuizen has attracted interest from abroad for a good reason.
Veteran: Willem Alberts
From youth to heaps of experience, Willem Alberts has been in very impressive form since returning to the Lions from his stint in Paris with Stade Francais.
While most will know Alberts as a loose forward, he has effectively reformed himself into a No 4 enforcer and was one of the Lions’ most impressive forwards during the Currie Cup. Alberts doesn’t necessarily boast his previous athleticism, but more than makes up for it with his physicality, work rate and experience.
Having played in two World Cups and in good form of late, it isn’t out of the question for Alberts to add to his 43 Test caps.
Saffas abroad: Nico Janse van Rensburg, Cobus Wiese, JP du Plessis, Stephan Lewies
Having kept Felix Jones on as a ‘European-based coaching consultant’, the Springboks are keeping a sharp eye on their overseas talent.
Nico Janse van Rensburg, part of the Montpellier side that will contest the European Challenge Cup final, was reportedly invited to a Springbok alignment camp for the Lions series.
In England, Cobus Wiese and JP du Plessis have formed an effective second-row partnership for the Sale Sharks, who look likely to contest the Premiership playoffs this year.
Stephan Lewies may be a less-talked-about potential Springbok, but his name merits inclusion. The Harlequins captain has been outstanding in the second row during this season’s Gallagher Premiership. He earned his one and only Test cap back in 2014.
Back-row bolters: Rynhardt Elstadt, Jacques du Plessis, Jean-Luc du Preez, Oupa Mohoje, Vincent Tshituka, Jannes Kirsten
Given South Africa’s fame as a forward factory, there are no shortage of options in this department.
Rynhardt Elstadt was part of the Springboks’ preparations for the 2019 World Cup, but narrowly missed out on selection for the final squad. Elstadt has continued his form into the 2020-21 Top 14 season, helping Toulouse to top the table and progress to the Champions Cup final. He is equally comfortable at lock, where he played during his Stormers days.
Bulls-bound Jacques du Plessis and the Sale Sharks’ Jean-Luc du Preez are other loose forwards who have spent time at lock at a senior level.
Oupa Mohoje would need to get some serious game time under his belt to make a late charge at the squad, but is also an option as a lock/flank, as is the Lions’ Vincent Tshituka, who played at lock at junior level.
Jannes Kirsten has shown his ability as a utility forward for the Exeter Chiefs, playing a major role as they claimed the Premiership and Champions Cup double last year.
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