CAPE TOWN – Warrick Gelant’s nickname is ‘Boogie’, ostensibly for his ability to dance on the rugby field!
And there’s no doubt that the Bulls star has some snazzy moves when he gets hold of a rugby ball, as he is able to cut defences to shreds with a sidestep or lightning speed.
But the 23-year-old from Knysna has caught Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ eye with something somewhat unexpected – his kicking game.
Gelant is renowned for his razzle-dazzle from the back, but what has gone unnoticed are some of those huge left-footed touch-finders.
Perhaps a bit ungainly in his method previously, Gelant is striking sweetly in 2018, and that is part of the reason why he was handed a start by Erasmus on Thursday for the final Test against England at Newlands on Saturday.
In replacing Willie le Roux, Gelant is one of a number of changes to the starting line-up, with André Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel forming a new midfield, Elton Jantjies getting an opportunity at flyhalf and Chiliboy Ralepelle coming in at hooker.
“We all know what he can do with ball-in-hand. His clearance kicking is excellent – he’s only had four, as he runs back most of the others!” Erasmus said at the Cape Town Stadium on Thursday.
“But he made some wonderful clearing kicks from his own 22, really accurate and always to the other side of the halfway line. I have no doubt that – and he is left- and right-footed, which you don’t get so often nowadays at this level, for some reason – but he can use both feet.
“And the nice thing is that if it’s wet, we’ll learn a lot about him. If it’s dry, I think we will have typical Warrick Gelant play. If it’s wet, we will see how he handles it… and if he doesn’t handle it, well, we will go afterwards and work on it to help him get better at it.
“If we have to change him in the game, Willie’s there, he knows wet weather. But hopefully if it’s wet, he swims well and he does well. If he doesn’t, we’ll fix it after the game.”
Another new face on the bench is Schalk Brits, who may play his last-ever Test if he decides to retire – permanently this time – after Saturday.
Erasmus said that decision is still in the air from the 37-year-old, but Brits will provide unique insight on the field to many of his former Saracens teammates.
“He knows a lot of the guys really well, but on the flip side, they know him very well too; they will know his weaknesses also,” Erasmus said.
“But it’s a nice occasion for Schalk – if he retires after this – it’s at Newlands, where he started. So we will see how long we can keep him going, if we can and do need him for the World Cup.”
The Springbok team is:
15 Warrick Gelant 14 Sbu Nkosi 13 Jesse Kriel 12 André Esterhuizen 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi 10 Elton Jantjies 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 RG Snyman 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Bench: 16 Schalk Brits 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Thomas du Toit 19 Jean-Luc du Preez 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe 21 Embrose Papier 22 Handré Pollard 23 Willie le Roux.