Springboks / 3 September 2019, 08:20am / Wynona Louw
CAPE TOWN – One more World Cup warm-up to go for the Springboks before things get real.
With the Bok team for Friday’s friendly against Japan having been announced yesterday, the only thing left to do now, other than fine tuning in Seki, is pitching up in Kumagaya - literally and in terms of performance.
While Bok coach Rassie Erasmus will by now be sure of who falls into the first- and second-choice categories, there are still a number of players who will want to make a statement later this week, for different reasons.
After four matches this year, matches in which South Africa’s options were assessed, all those who are in the 31-man group have got their chance.
There will still be those who will want to make a statement, though, albeit for different reasons.
Francois Louw dispelled any talk of waning abilities when he produced one of his best Test performances in recent years in the Boks’ 35-17 Rugby Championship win against Australia.
He silenced Wallaby skipper Michael Hooper when it came to the breakdown, and it is in that department that he ultimately showed how much he can bring.
But with top baller Kwagga Smith also in the World Cup mix, Louw will want to make sure that he gets closer to reserving a spot on the bench for the big games.
While the back-row spots in the starting line-up are already spoken for by Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen, Louw and Smith are the main back-up, while Erasmus has also said that hooker Schalk Brits could be used at No 8 should the need to rest other loose forwards arise.
That makes it a direct battle between Louw and Smith, and while the Lions loose forward also knows how to work his way around the breakdown, Louw’s experience at international level could see him provide cover in their opener against New Zealand in Yokohama on September 21.
Prop Trevor Nyakane is another one who’d like to make the most of his chance.
If ever there was a time the Springboks could brag about their prop stocks, it is now.
But focusing on Nyakane; it’s getting pretty hard to stop yourself from asking why the ever-smiling front-rower hasn’t started more Tests.
The way he must have made the Aussies miss home as he dominated them at scrum time should have helped him catch Erasmus’s gaze. And he didn’t stop there.
A solid run in the World Cup could very well see the Boks’ tighthead pecking order take some definite form, and strong performances on rugby’s biggest stage could help Nyakane on his way to becoming South Africa’s No1 No3.
Speaking of numbers - if you look at someone like Herschel Jantjies, the digits in his “appearances made” column are modest, very modest at that, but there’s nothing modest about what he’s done in those few Tests.
While it’s common knowledge that Faf de Klerk heads South Africa’s deepening pool of scrumhalves, Jantjies has done enough to make the prospect of someone taking over from the Lions scrumhalf, in the near future, seems like a real possibility.
Given what he’s done until now, the key for him will be to continue building on what he’s produced, and that’s about the only statement he needs to make.