No Victor Matfield, no Bakkies Botha, no Danie Rossouw, and even though he is by comparison a Johnny-come-lately, no (injured) Andries Bekker. So where does that leave a Springbok second row so long the gnarled veteran variety as opposed to whippersnappers?
Not in bad shape at all, actually, with its healthy case of out with the old and in with the new.
The belligerent Eben Etzebeth has been breathing Bakkies-like fire all season in the Stormers’ No 4 jersey, while Juandre Kruger has been under the tutelage of none other than Matfield at the Bulls this season, and now at the Springboks.
That second row is not quite as wet behind the ears as people think. Heyneke Meyer had the tempting option of Bulls duo Kruger and Flip van der Merwe – who is older, wiser and has 11 more caps than Etzebeth’s grand total of zero – but the coach has gone for broke in picking form over combinations.
”With Flip and Juandre, they’ve combined well, while Andries and Eben have played nicely together,” Meyer said.”I went for form, and… although it might have been easier to pair the two Bulls together, Eben brings something different and is very good at contesting at the lineouts.
“I wouldn’t want to say he’s the next Bakkies – I actually think he can surpass that – and I did think about experience but I have a lot of confidence in Eben. He’s big, physical and doesn’t shy away from contact. I think he’s the best No 4 lock in Super Rugby.
“Having said that, I don’t believe in reserves. I believe in impact players and if you have a look at the forwards on the bench, they are great players in their own right. Flip is the type of player who can make a huge difference from the bench.”
Kruger is the older partner at 27 and played a season at Northampton in 2009 before returning to South Africa.
“Victor has been brilliant in sharing his knowledge,” Kruger said. “He will sit down with me in front of the laptop and show me how he goes about analysing the opposition lineout. I have learned from the best and, even though I am making my Test debut, I have no reservations about calling our lineout.” – The Mercury