Durban — The Springbok squad for the three-Test series against Wales will be named within the next fortnight and while we know that coach Jacques Nienaber is going to stick with his tried and tested, there are outsiders who have played their socks off in the URC.
These players are surely knocking on the Bok coach’s door.
Mike Greenaway looks at the pick of the players who have put their hands up in the URC and deserve a round of applause, even if not everybody is listening!
Loose forward is an area of great riches in South African rugby and for some time No8s Evan Roos and Elrigh Louw have been stating a case to Nienaber. We know about them, and now we can add the name of Tshituka, who has been in phenomenal form for the Lions, be it powerful ball carrying, strong cover defence, or wrestling turnovers at the breakdown.
The 24-year-old has found a home at last in Cape Town after being largely ignored at the Bulls and then having a curious stay at the Sharks, who contrived to miss his talent. Onwards to the Stormers, where he has blossomed and been a vital part of the wonderful form the Cape team has enjoyed. Libbok takes the ball to the line and creates beautifully for his outside backs. Another flyhalf to come good of late is Curwin Bosch, who had a horror start to the URC but is now playing well for the Sharks.
He is another who was cut from the Bulls and then found form elsewhere. This season, in particular, Odendaal has been sensational for the Lions. He has cut the line innumerable times and offloaded slickly to make tries for those outside him. It is such a pity for SA rugby that he is moving abroad to Wasps in the best form of his career. In this position an honourable mention for Ruhan Nel of the Stormers.
In an opposite cycle to that of Libbok and Odendaal, Tambwe has come alive at the Bulls after leaving the Lions for the Sharks where he played well but for undisclosed reasons fell from favour. Under Jake White, he has been immense. He is SA’s answer to the towering Samoan-born wingers that feature so well for all the New Zealand franchise teams and indeed the All Blacks. Another wing to make a noise is Werner Kok. There is no player on the planet with a higher work rate.
Morne van den Berg
He is the best scrumhalf playing in South Africa although Jaden Hendrikse at the Sharks has lately been finding his best form. Van den Berg is the epitome of former Lion Faf de Klerk at this stage of his career. Van den Berg has been a joy to watch with his mischievous darts from the sides of the rucks and mauls and when he does break clear, he has shown blistering pace to score some lovely tries.
Like Tambwe, Arendse has flourished at Lotus Versfeld under White. Now 25, he is playing unbelievable rugby and some of his scorching tries have been Youtube hits. Like Werner Kok, Arendse is proof that Sevens stars can make the transition to the 15-man game. His nifty footwork and jet boots speed suggest he is a Cheslin Kolbe in the making.
It is difficult to believe that the Bulls' workhorse is still just 23! But then he did make his senior debut at the Bulls in 2018 when still a callow youth. Nortje has a massive engine on him and gives nothing less than 110 percent for every minute of the game. At 2m tall (six foot six), he takes his lineout ball with ease and there are 113kgs packed on that lanky frame, so he is no lightweight.