Cape Town — Evan Roos was asked just three questions in a 31-minute-long Springbok press conference this week, but he will have to deal with many more head-on when he comes face-to-face with England giant Billy Vunipola in Saturday’s Twickenham showdown (7.30pm SA time kick-off).
The new Bok No 8 was a welcome selection made by coach Jacques Nienaber on Tuesday, and he fronted up at the media briefing in London.
But after speaking about how excited he is to be thrown into the “deep end” and how grateful he was to the coaches for picking him, the inevitable Vunipola question came up, to which he responded: “Billy is a very good player. He is quality, and it is going to be great to play against a guy like him and to measure myself against him.”
The barnstorming 22-year-old loose forward has been waiting a long time to get a proper opportunity, having started on debut and played for 47 minutes against Wales in Bloemfontein, before featuring for the last 20 minutes in the Italy Test last week.
In the Welsh encounter, he was solid without being his usual spectacular self against veteran No 8 Taulupe Faletau. He made a number of strong carries and put in the hard yards in defence.
His fans have been pushing hard on social media for Roos to feature more often for the Boks, but to no avail as he was ignored for the entire Rugby Championship, with Jasper Wiese, Duane Vermeulen and Kwagga Smith preferred.
At Twickenham, though, he will hope to shine against one of the big wrecking balls in world rugby in the shape of 67 Test-capped Vunipola, whose 1.88m and 130kg frame will be running at him all night long.
If he can get through the match with his reputation enhanced, it will place pressure on the Bok coaches to give him more game time ahead of the likes of Wiese and Smith before the World Cup next year.
One man who is confident that Roos can handle the occasion in front of 82000 spectators in London, though, is former Springbok captain and No 8 Bob Skinstad, who is based in the UK capital these days.
“He has come through the URC and been such an amazing performer there. Evan Roos epitomises for me what I like about a number eight. He’s got speed and power, skills … I really like that he’s got a bit of an edge to him. He’s physical in contact, both in carrying the ball and in defence, so I think he fully deserves his position to start for the Springboks,” Skinstad said during a media call for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship this week.
“But he’s really made that position his own because of the performances in the URC. Excited for him to be doing it on such a big stage, and if we see some of the performances that we have seen from him …
“I was lucky enough to be watching him live against Connacht in the opening game of the season, where he burst through … It was a bit of a wobbly offload, and he had a bit of a lucky running line to start. But he turned it into a 50m run with a physical finish, and scored in the corner.
“For me, it was just an indication of what is to come, and hopefully we see lots more of it. I wish him all the best. Twickenham is a massive cauldron, and there will be a few Springbok supporters shouting him on.
“But week in and week out, we’ve seen his quality in the URC, and it’s just an indication of what he can do. So, hopefully, long may it continue.”