Does Rassie Erasmus back Embrose Papier?
If you look at how the scrumhalf has been used until now, there’s very little that would suggest that.
Since making his international debut against Wales in Washington DC back in June, Papier has had limited chances on the Test arena.
And while that doesn’t seem like too bizarre a way of easing the 21-year-old into the rough waters of international rugby, it’s how the Bulls product has been used – or not used – that doesn’t make a lot of sense at the moment.
The latest example – South Africa’s too-close-for-comfort win over France – again raised some questions regarding Erasmus’ plans with the player he described as a “natural attacker” earlier this year. And rightfully so.
The SA Director of Rugby’s first-choice No 9, Faf de Klerk, started at Stade de France, while Papier, who missed out on a starting berth to Ivan van Zyl last week at Twickenham, again occupied what seems to have become his spot on the bench.
The fact that De Klerk was off his game, and yet played the full 80-plus minutes, just boggles the mind.
In recent weeks, Erasmus’ plan when it comes to the use of his bench hasn’t really been clear. And although he used a more effective formula in France, it’s not one Erasmus seems keen on using in the scrumhalf equation.
If a player – in this instance, De Klerk – isn’t exactly getting it right on the field, why keep him on?
And while this past weekend’s showing at No 9 begs that question, the bigger concern is what exactly the plan is with the talent that is Papier.
If you look at how he has been used with the Springboks up until now, it’s hard to make sense of the apparent excitement Erasmus showed about the speedy scrumhalf earlier this season.
Erasmus has spoken a lot about building depth ahead of next year’s World Cup, and he’s also discussed the issues at scrumhalf.
Does he expect Papier to feature during the spectacle at all?
If so, how are Papier’s limited cameos conducive to his development and growth?
And with so few Tests left before the Japan event, when will the process of building Papier seriously start? Enough time has been lost as it is.
The decision to start Ivan van Zyl ahead of Papier against England last week was also a questionable one.
Yes, given the former’s tactical ability and the conditions up north, it made sense.
But the Boks played like they would in extremely wet conditions, even though that wasn’t the case, and again, more game time for Papier couldn’t have done any harm.
He warmed the bench for most of the Rugby Championship, and not much has changed heading into the third assessment of this year’s End-of-Year Tour.
Does Papier just not suit what seems to be Erasmus’ box-kick game plan?
Does Rassie just want to “protect” him? Will he be – anytime soon – given the chance to grow his game... that game consisting of ridiculous pace, the ability to speed up a game and attacking forte?
That’s not clear. But one thing’s for sure... Embrose Papier needs the chance to build experience. He needs to reduce his work-ons.
And that’s not going to happen by watching on from the replacements bench that he’s come to know so well.