at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Johannesburg - What a perfect opportunity to see some of this country’s brightest young stars in action. Let’s hope Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer feels the same way.
With seven senior Boks not available to tackle Scotland in Port Elizabeth this weekend, why not give the likes of Trevor Nyakane, S’bura Sithole, Marcel van der Merwe, Teboho Mohoje, Lwazi Mvovo and Handre Pollard a run?
Meyer has to make changes to the squad anyway that did duty in Nelspruit last weekend so Saturday’s match presents a chance for him to further deepen the pool from which he can pick his World Cup squad. Now, I’m not for one minute suggesting he must make wholesale changes, but let’s just look back at the two-Test series against Wales and we’ll see what some of the “fringe” players did - men desperate for an opportunity.
Yes, the victories were achieved by good team efforts, but one can’t help but feel the spark was provided by men who’re still trying to impress and establish themselves in the team.
The younger players who are perhaps not guaranteed World Cup places - because, let’s be honest, some guys’ tickets to England next year have already been booked - have plenty to play for.
Willie le Roux was good in his debut season last year, but there may have been some doubts about him after a rather sluggish Super Rugby campaign, but he showed again he is the Boks’ most lethal weapon with two exceptional performances against Wales. His flat passes to send Cornal Hendricks away for his try in Nelspruit was top-notch, as was his pass to the same man, which led to the Boks’ penalty try at the death. And, let’s not forget Le Roux’s scintillating display in Durban.
Hendricks, too, has made the most of his chance this month. He’s looked strong with ball in hand and eager to get stuck in - perhaps desperate to be one of the men on the plane to England next year.
Jan Serfontein - knowing Jean de Villiers is the first choice inside centre and that Frans Steyn is (or was) the backup - has shown he is more than ready to step up at Test level and become a permanent member of the squad.
Up front, Lood de Jager, in 40 minutes in Durban, also grabbed his chance, ensuring Meyer will have a few tough decisions to make about his locks over the next year.
These four men - youngsters who’re keen to impress - have been the stars for me over the last few weeks. Perhaps a further injection of youth into the team this weekend, against a team the Boks shouldn’t really struggle against, will bring about a hungrier, more fired-up side.
And it seems that’s exactly what the Boks are in need of right now.