CAPE TOWN - Earlier this season, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said that he was excited by scrumhalf Embrose Papier. So maybe now is the time to back him.
Faf de Klerk will in all likelihood start at scrumhalf when the Boks take on the Wallabies at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, and while that seems like a definite, who will provide cover on the bench is a different story.
In terms of scrumhalves, Erasmus included De Klerk, Papier and Ivan van Zyl in his squad for the two remaining Rugby Championship games against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth and New Zealand in Pretoria next week.
Building depth, particularly in the spine of the team, ahead of next year’s World Cup in Japan is something Erasmus has said is one of his objectives, and that alone should be reason enough to give the young Bulls No 9 an extended run.
Papier made his Test debut in the Boks’ defeat to Wales in Washington DC in June, and he has since made three appearances for the Boks. And against the Wallabies in Brisbane, Erasmus named Papier on the bench but didn’t play him at all, even though things weren’t exactly running smoothly at scrumhalf.
In June, Erasmus highlighted the attributes that make the 21-year-old such an exciting prospect. He said that the Bulls scrumhalf is “one of the fastest players in the squad”, and that while he has a few work-ons, he is a player who really excites him. And he isn’t the only one. Former Bulls executive of rugby John Mitchell has also touted Papier as a future world-class Test player.
The former Junior Bok is an out-and-out attack-minded No 9, and his crisp pass, speed and guile around the fringes, ability to speed up a game and solid box-kicking of course make him one to watch. He certainly still has a lot of growing to do, and that will come with game time. Game time that Erasmus has the opportunity to increase this season.
The fact that Erasmus has brought Papier into the Bok set-up is a positive on its own. But if the Bok coach wants to be confident about his back-up scrumhalf in Japan next year, allowing Papier (if he is that guy) a chance to build up experience through minutes can’t do any harm.
Worrying about your back-up resources at the World Cup, in whatever position, and whether they’re ready or not or experienced enough is a situation that can be prevented. If Erasmus is still as excited about Papier as he was earlier this season, then it should be the pacey No 9 that gets a chance after the halftime break in PE.