Pretoria - Madosh Tambwe has been in sensational form for the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship (URC) this season, and is surely knocking hard on the Springbok door.
But the man himself is not so sure that he will receive a call-up from coach Jacques Nienaber for the three-Test series against Wales in July – notwithstanding passport and citizenship issues.
“There are World Cup guys in (Makazole) Mapimpi; Cheslin Kolbe, who has been playing some great rugby back in France; and Mapimpi, we all know how ‘Pimps’ plays well; and (Sbu Nkosi) – I don’t know what is wrong with him at the moment – but those are more or less the guys that have been in and out of the Bok camp the last two or three years,” the Kinshasha-born 24-year-old said in a recent press conference.
“That’ll definitely be the safe net for the selectors. If I do crack the nod, it will be amazing to play in the June series.”
But Saturday’s URC clash against Benetton at Loftus Versfeld (2pm kickoff) presents Tambwe with a prime opportunity to remind Nienaber of his class once more – especially with Kolbe having sustained a broken thumb for Toulon last weekend that has required surgery.
It was a tough afternoon for the Bulls No 11 in their last match, the 19-17 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town on April 9, with the ball not really bouncing his way.
Coach Jake White agreed that his team were far from their best at the Cape Town Stadium, where they battled to find their rhythm on attack and kicked too much ball away.
Back at Loftus, though, the Bulls have been scoring some stunning tries and racking up bonus-point wins over European opposition, and they will hope for a repeat to gain revenge on Benetton for the 35-8 Rainbow Cup final defeat in Treviso last June.
At the heart of their attacking onslaught has been Tambwe, whose speed and ability to step past defenders gives the Bulls real unpredictability with ball-in-hand. He is a lethal finisher out wide, and also boasts a solid kicking game when required.
But a big test awaits Tambwe on Saturday, as he will face two Italian Test wings in Monty Ioane and Edoardo Padovani.
It was Ioane – who was born in Australia, but has Samoan and Fijian roots, whose uncle Digby Ioane and cousin Pete Samu played Test rugby for the Wallabies – who terrorised the Bulls with his pace and strength out wide in the Rainbow Cup final.
Tambwe played at right wing that day and was in direct battle with the powerful figure of Ioane, and had a tough outing on a hot afternoon. The Bulls speedster left too much of a gap on the outside to allow Ioane to score in the left corner early on, and then later, he was unable to stop the Benetton No 11 from getting his offload away in the tackle to flank Michele Lamaro, who charged over the line.
Mind you, Tambwe did get on to the score-sheet himself as he darted over from close-range off the back of a ruck, but that was as good as it got for the former Lions and Sharks wing.
Padovani is a big unit who also dotted down in the final, and is likely to oppose Tambwe directly at Loftus on Saturday.
So, there’s a bit of history and a score to settle for Tambwe with Ioane in particular, and if he is able to do that, the Bulls will have a better chance of victory to keep their playoff hopes alive, and enhance his Bok prospects at the same time.