2 April 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld
BOK BOLTERS – TOP HOPEFULS FOR SHOCK RWC SPOTS
With the World Cup around the corner, every match is crucial for Springbok hopefuls looking to impress Rassie Erasmus.
The Bok mentor gave players added motivation at the start of the season when he stated the door was still open for players outside of the established squad to work their way into the World Cup collective.
There’s a degree of lip service to Erasmus’ statement, as the core group and surrounding layer of experienced players are cast in stone. Realistically, less than a handful of hopefuls have a legitimate chance of earning a plane ticket to Japan come September.
Add in the wealth of talent in key positions – the embarrassment of riches in the second row being a prime example – that will even see an unlucky few current squad members miss the cut, and outsiders’ dreams of donning the green and gold at the global showpiece become even more of a long shot.
The flyhalf stocks, for example, are already filled – Handre Pollard the first-choice No. 10, the experienced Elton Jantjies his deputy and the exciting young Damian Willemse set to provide cover at pivot and fullback.
Injuries are always a concern, even with key players set to be rested through the course of the season, and may force a surprise inclusion or two, but rather than getting caught up in fantasy picks, here are the top candidates who have a realistic shot at cracking the nod.
More of a must than a ‘bolter’, no-one deserves – and have earned – a Bok recall more than the former Sharks loose forward. A relentless predator around the park, few can match Coetzee’s outstanding output. He’s the total package – powerful, skilled, explosive and efficient at the breakdown.
He had a jinxed start to his career at Ulster, suffering a serious recurring knee injury that kept him out of action for the better part of three years.
Yet, with the same heart and passion that makes him one of the best back rowers in the world, he persevered through the pain and frustration of months and months of rehab, never losing faith…his hunger unquenched.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) March 30, 2019
Also consider: here’s a truly elite player who never ‘lost’ his place in the Bok set-up in the true sense of the word. He was in a race against time to be fit for the 2015 World Cup, and was somehow overlooked after he’d done the hard yards.
Still only 27 and with 28 Test caps to his name, Coetzee is fully fit and back to his brilliant best for his Irish club. As a hybrid athlete, he could be an ideal super sub for the established guard of Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen.
Another overseas-based player who’s only enhanced his reputation since joining Northampton Saints in 2017. An attack-minded No. 9 with exceptional speed and acceleration to dart through the smallest of gaps around the fridges during his time at the Sharks, playing Premiership rugby has seen Reinach evolve into a complete scrumhalf.
Like his former Sharks teammate, Reinach earned the last of his 10 Test caps in 2015 and looked set to feature in the World Cup that year, but lost out to Rudy Paige, who went on to provide cover for Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar.
Four years later, as if trapped in a torturous time warp, he finds himself in the same position, vying for the third-choice scrumhalf spot behind Faf de Klerk and Embrose Papier.
Now 29, Reinach is at the height of his career and as one of the Saints’ consistent star players, he’s done more than enough to warrant a Bok recall. Speculation was rife that he would make his return to the national set-up on the end-of-year tour, but again, he found himself on the outside looking in.
The Bok coach mentioned Reinach by name at a press conference earlier this month, so he’s on the radar, and at this stage of their respective careers, the seasoned and well-rounded Reinach would bring more to the table than the exciting upstart Ivan van Zyl.
The Bulls loosehead has been mightily impressive this year. A true modern-day front rower, Gqoboka is mobile around the field on top of being a powerful scrummager.
Most remarkable – and promising from a coach’s perspective – is how consistent the 29-year-old has been. He’s churned out Test-level performance after Test-level performance, regularly racking up double digit tackle numbers while being dependably dominant at scrum time, often earning penalties in the all-important set piece.
The Eastern Province product has been on the Bok radar for quite some time, and made cameos off the bench for the South African “A” team in the two-match series against the touring England Saxons back in 2016. His current rich vein of form suggests he’s reaching his prime.
The Vodacom Bulls would like to wish Lizo Gqoboka a very happy birthday. We hope that this year is filled with great memories.
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) March 21, 2019