An ever-smiling guy moving along on the training field is probably the first image that pops into your mind when you think of Trevor Nyakane. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – An ever-smiling guy moving along on the training field is probably the first image that pops into your mind when you think of Trevor Nyakane. But that won’t be the case for long, or so it seems.

Nowadays, the 30-year-old prop has been steadily altering that image. Not that there’s anything wrong with that trademark happy-go-lucky persona, but this season, it’s scrummaging prowess and hot form that have become an added tag to Nyakane’s name.

It’s exactly those factors that would have made a start for him in the No 3 jersey tomorrow a well-deserved one. Earlier this week, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus named Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe as the starting front row for their final World Cup warm-up game against Japan in Kumagaya (12.15pm kickoff).

It’s also likely that this team will face the All Blacks in Yokohama in their World Cup opener on 21 September as well.

You need someone who will hit those rucks, carry and do his part on defence, and that someone is Trevor Nyakane  Photo: EPA/Muzi Ntombela
You need someone who will hit those rucks, carry and do his part on defence, and that someone is Trevor Nyakane Photo: EPA/Muzi Ntombela

Judging by the kind of performances Nyakane has produced this year, one would expect him to be moving ever closer to locking down a more “permanent” position in the squad, not just because it’s been six years since he first broke into the Bok mix, but because he has earned it.

Along the way, he has made the tough switch from loosehead to tighthead, with his early struggles to make his mark at No 1 and the wealth of depth in the loosehead position driving his jump from one side of the scrum to the other.

He has also had his fair share of discipline-related issues. But now, the more you see him go, the harder it becomes to understand how this guy’s starting berths - in 40 Test matches - can all be recalled on one hand.

Nyakane’s carrying has always been his strength. But in recent times he has also shown his worth as a scrummager, while his work-rate around the park has become tough to beat.

When comparing that to Malherbe - a player who was at one stage the undeniable incumbent at No 3 - Nyakane’s “work put in” column shines. While his biggest growth spurt has been in terms of his scrum work, his other areas haven’t waned, not one bit.

Malherbe’s scrummaging has always given him the edge over the likes of Nyakane, but his work in the loose has never really garnered the same praise. And in 2019, he hasn’t exactly set the set-piece alight either, although he has been good at times in that department.

Nyakane, on the other hand, started his fire build-up during this year’s Super Rugby competition, and during the Rugby Championship he pulled out the full deck of cards, putting that growing dynamism on display as he made his tackles - 30 over the three Rugby Championship games - carried with purpose and proved himself to be a menace, a tormentor to the opposition is probably more like it, at scrum time.

Trevor Nyakane’s biggest growth spurt has been in terms of his scrum work. Photo: Samuel Shivambu BackpagePix

Scrummaging is a tighthead’s primary role; that is not going to change. But times have, and today, you need props who can contribute after the set-piece has ended as well.

You need someone who will hit those rucks, carry and do his part on defence, and that is Trevor Nyakane.

@WynonaLouw

 

Cape Times

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