Only a handful of Boks running out against Namibia are likely to force their way into the ‘A team’ with a good outing, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
And that’s even though there were quite a few below-par performances in the Springboks’ World Cup opener against the All Blacks.
Finally, we’ll be able to have a good look at Frans Steyn.
Yes, it’s only Namibia the Boks are facing on Saturday, but it should give us an indication of what sort of form he is in ahead of bigger assignments later in the World Cup.
Steyn made cameo appearances off the bench in all of the Boks’ Tests this year leading up to the World Cup. There have been brief moments of class, and a reminder of his undoubted talent. But there have also been many ordinary moments, while his fitness and conditioning have been questioned by fans and pundits alike.
Steyn is the ultimate enigma.
It’s rather bizarre that this is his first start for the Boks since joining the squad earlier this year. Andre Esterhuizen, who didn’t make the final cut for the trip to Japan, started at inside centre in both home Tests for the so-called ‘B team’, while Damian de Allende has started all the other Tests in the No 12 jersey.
Now he gets his big chance, but his performance will probably not make a difference to coach Rassie Erasmus’ plans ahead of a likely, blockbuster meeting against Ireland in the quarter-finals.
The same goes for many other players in the Bok squad, who haven’t played a competitive match of rugby since the one-off Test against Argentina in mid-August.
De Allende was one of the Boks’ better players against the All Blacks and is likely to continue his role at inside centre.
But elsewhere in the backline there are players who can stake a real claim for a starting berth.
Wing S’bu Nkosi was unlucky not to feature against the All Blacks following two top performances against Australia and Argentina at home. Another serious display could put pressure on Erasmus to look for a spot for the Sharks flyer, after Willie le Roux’s ordinary display, especially under the high ball, in the World Cup opener.
News coming out of Japan is that Cheslin Kolbe had a run at fullback during training this week, despite Warrick Gelant being selected to start in that position against Namibia.
This is an indication that Erasmus could be considering playing Kolbe – who had an absolute belter against the All Blacks and was magnificent under the high ball – at fullback, which will leave space for Nkosi on the right wing in the A team.
The other player who will be looking to perform is scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, who only got 10 minutes against the All Blacks even though first-choice scrumhalf Faf de Klerk had a bit of an off day.
The problem, however, is that the Boks look like they will play a completely different game against Namibia, which will see them kick less and keep the ball in hand a lot more. This will suit Jantjies’ strengths, which include quickfire service off the base.
But this is definitely not the way they are going to play in a quarter-final, as they are again likely to look to kick a lot more, especially off No 9. But a few decent punts are not going to do Jantjies’ chances of leapfrogging De Klerk any harm.
Up front, the Boks’ front row will also be looking to force their way into the A team. Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch can put pressure on the starters.
But, other than those players, it’s rather unlikely that anyone else will be able to force themselves into the A team with a top performance against lowly Namibia.
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