CAPE TOWN – Beating the All Blacks in New Zealand sent a warm wave of joy across the Springbok spectrum.
But thankfully, Rassie Erasmus knows it doesn’t mean that they are now ready to win next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
And while many thorny areas seemed to have been solved – Willie le Roux is the best fullback, Pieter-Steph du Toit is becoming a dominant force at blindside flank (I still think he’s a better lock!) and Steven Kitshoff is proving what’s possible at loosehead prop, outside centre is still problematic.
Lukhanyo Am has done enough to be considered the first-choice at the moment, but now he’s injured and out of the last two Rugby Championship games against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Jesse Kriel is next in line and the favourite to start at No 13 in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, with Lionel Mapoe the back-up and Ruhan Nel the WP rookie called up from Currie Cup rugby.
But with outside centre being such a crucial position, Erasmus missed a trick by not calling up Juan de Jongh from English club Wasps following Am’s withdrawal.
Kriel still has the same issues – defence on his outside and knowing when to pass – that has stopped him from becoming the first-choice.
Mapoe has all the attributes to become a powerhouse at Test level, but is not being given a run.
Nel hasn’t even played for the Stormers yet, so will be finding his feet in the hurly-burly world of international rugby over the fortnight.
But back to De Jongh. The former Stormers man has been in superb touch for Wasps in the English Premiership, and scored a trademark hot-stepping try just over a week ago.
It was reminiscent of his effort in the 2010 Super 14 semi-final against the Waratahs at Newlands.
#ThrowBackThursday “ With #Superugby Semis coming up. #NewlandsFaithful can you still remember semis 2010 ?😉 “ #Blessed #Honored #StormersDreamTeam #LegendSquad #PackedNewlands #TahsToSaAgain @dhlstormers @dhlafrica pic.twitter.com/EclZI0CDAW
The 30-year-old, who has 19 Test caps, is well-known to Erasmus, who was the “senior professional coach” (de facto director of rugby) at WP Rugby when De Jongh enjoyed his breakthrough year alongside Jaque Fourie in 2010.
The Hugenote High product is the first-choice No 13 at Wasps and has all the experience and ability to play in both midfield positions (inside centre is not exactly sorted out at the Boks either).
He is well-versed in Jacques Nienaber’s defence methods, and is playing with a freedom and confidence that seemed to seep out of his game due to a few injuries and lack of Bok opportunities in his last few years in South Africa.
De Jongh plays alongside former All Black flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, England utility back Elliot Daly and of course Willie le Roux at his club.
He is someone who would’ve been a “wise old head” for young centres such as Andre Esterhuizen, Nel and possibly Handre Pollard to learn from.
With Damian de Allende and Am out of contention, Erasmus may rue not bringing in De Jongh…
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Backs: Willie le Roux, Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, Sbu Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Jesse Kriel, Ruhan Nel, Lionel Mapoe, Andre Esterhuizen, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Faf de Klerk.
Forwards: Warren Whiteley, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marco van Staden, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Eben Etzebeth, Wilco Louw, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira, Steven Kitshoff.