CAPE TOWN – The Springboks may have pulled through the Ellis Park thriller, but they will have to find a solution at tighthead prop for the rest of the England series after Trevor Nyakane was ruled out for the remaining two Tests on Sunday.
Bulls No 3 Nyakane was officially withdrawn on Saturday from the 42-39 victory at Ellis Park with a rib injury, although it was apparent that he wouldn’t take the field on Friday already as he wasn’t part of the traditional match-23 team photo.
SA Rugby also announced that seven other players have been released from the squad for the last two England Tests – Ox Nche, Jason Jenkins, Kwagga Smith, Nizaam Carr, Travis Ismaiel, Curwin Bosch and Cameron Wright.
Stormers star Wilco Louw ran out in the No 3 jersey, and had some difficulties in the scrum almost immediately as he conceded a penalty for collapsing with the Boks in a prime attacking position on the England 22.
The scrum went down a few times on Louw’s side, but he also put in some solid shoves and got stuck in on defence, hitting the rucks and even a few carries before being replaced by Thomas du Toit before the 50-minute mark.
But after an outstanding 2017 season where he was undoubtedly the best tighthead prop in South Africa, Louw hasn’t quite reached the same heights in 2018.
While he should probably get another start in the second Test in Bloemfontein on Saturday, a factor coach Rassie Erasmus will consider is that Louw started against Wales in Washington DC last week, and then travelled back to Johannesburg and had to fill in for Nyakane at Ellis Park – he wasn’t going to be part of the match-23 if the latter had been fit.
Du Toit made a good impact off the bench, alongside Steven Kitshoff, against Wales and England, but is he ready to start a Test match against gnarly loosehead prop Mako Vunipola, a veteran of 56 caps (50 for England, 6 for the British and Irish Lions)?
The only other option in the squad is Frans Malherbe, who was not one of the players released on Sunday, but the Stormers man has hardly played in 2018.