If Marco van Staden maintains consistent form, he should remain firmly in selection contention for the Springbok squad to face the British & Irish Lions next year, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Prior to the launch of the new-look domestic season, plenty was said about the excitement of seeing the Currie Cup return to a full-strength competition featuring several Springboks.
Unfortunately there have been injuries to World Cup-winning stars such as Siya Kolisi, Lukhanyo Am, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sbu Nkosi, while the form of teams and individuals has been somewhat inconsistent after an unprecedented period without rugby.
The Vodacom Bulls have emerged as the standout team, and in the midst of a winning environment, Van Staden has kicked on as one of the real bright lights in a domestic season that was desperately needed to save the game after more than six months of lockdown.
Van Staden is one of those unassuming players who seems to have been around for quite some time, but he only turned 25 back in August, and now looking fit and injury free, he has rediscovered some of his best form.
Van Staden has been working closely with breakdown coach Nollis Marais to refine his decision-making at the breakdown, which has given him a better understanding of whether to go in for the steal or not.
It’s one of the most high-risk areas of the game, with the ultimate reward of winning a penalty finely balanced with the risk of being called out by the referee for ‘failing to show daylight, going off their feet, or sealing off’.
‘He’s also improved his ball carrying, and support play,’ Bulls coach Jake White raved a few weeks back. ‘He’s a massive player for us, probably the most consistent player in all the games we’ve played so far. The way the laws are and the way he’s adapting to them is helping us a massive amount.’
Van Staden has maintained that consistency of form through Super Rugby Unlocked and into the Currie Cup, and once again bagged the man-of-the-match award in Saturday’s resounding win over the Cheetahs.
Although Van Staden isn’t the biggest loose forward by South Africa’s typical standards, the fact ‘Eskom’ boasts one of the best nicknames in the game for knocking out the lights of players he tackles speaks volumes about his physicality.
With a fearlessness on defence and at the breakdown, Van Staden’s low centre of gravity aids his cause as one of the best fetchers in the local game, with this ability having become a highly valued commodity once again under the current law applications.
Van Staden’s pathway to the Springbok No 6 jersey is obviously impeded by the fact Kolisi remains the incumbent openside flank, but he increasingly looks like a player who would still add massive value to the national cause.
At last year’s World Cup, Francois Louw was an integral member of the ‘Bomb Squad’ and viewed as a player who could come off the bench and make a game-changing impact with his ability at the breakdown.
Van Staden boasts similar attributes as an impact player who would undoubtedly up the tempo of the game and be seen as a major threat over the ball.
The dynamic flank has just three Test caps to his name in a career that has been disrupted by injuries, but he is one of the few players who has significantly enhanced his reputation in the domestic competition.
Should this form continue, there is no doubt his name will be impossible to ignore when the Springbok squad is compiled for the highly anticipated Lions tour.