DURBAN – England will look to exploit an alleged “chink” in the Springbok rugby team at scrumhalf when the countries renew battle at Twickenham on Saturday, according to former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes.
Barnes, who doubles as Sky News’ rugby expert and commentator, said in an opinion column that Faf de Klerk will be sorely missed by the Boks but in positive comments he defended Rassie Erasmus for selecting 37-year-old Schalk Brits while hailing the “electric” attributes of Aphiwe Dyantyi and the attacking ability of Damian Willemse.
“If there is a chink in the Springbok ranks it is at scrum-half where Faf de Klerk will be absent. He has been the revelation of the southern hemisphere season with his furious defence and his calm control from the base,” Barnes said.
“His absence is compounded by the fact that Rassie Erasmus doesn’t have much faith in any other nine. It is a weakness in South Africa’s squad in need of addressing. It’s a weakness England will look to capitalise upon.”
Barnes added that the absence of De Klerk would crank up pressure on flyhalf Handre Pollard.
“There’ll be quite some squeeze on the steadily improving Handre Pollard. With De Klerk not there, a huge burden of responsibility for game management will fall upon the flyhalf’s broad shoulders,” Barnes said. “His goal kicking is back to its outstanding best. If the rest of his game reaches the peak at which he was playing before injury derailed him for the best part of two years, he’ll handle the pressure.”
English rugby has long had a love affair with happy hooker Brits, who has even been hailed as one of the best rugby players ever seen in that land.
“Welcome back Schalk,” Barnes said. “The 37-year-old Saracens legend is defying time as he returns to Europe as one of the three Springbok hookers. There has been plenty of contention in parts of South Africa, notably Durban, where Currie Cup-winning hooker and Barbarians favourite Akker van der Merwe has missed out.
“It will frustrate the younger man but it’s easy to see the logic of Rassie Erasmus,” Barnes explained. “Brits’ European experience will stand him in good stead and make him priceless as a font of local knowledge for Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi.
“And in an end-of-year tour where tiredness is waiting around the corner for these players, his infectious good humour is another unseen boost to the tour party.”
Barnes said that Dyantyi is a “free spirit roaming the width of the field.”
“Aphiwe Dyantyi is my idea of World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year. Six tries in nine Tests and a fast-improving defence. The guy is electric. There’s a loss of experience with Willie le Roux’s absence but Damien Willemse has a stunning running game.”