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SA Rugby’s Pivotal Problem

The United Rugby Championship has underscored that South African rugby has a serious lack of quality flyhalves, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


The United Rugby Championship has underscored that South African rugby has a serious lack of quality flyhalves, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Manie Libbok played his part in the Springbok saddle, but it was the splendiferous return of Handre Pollard that played a pivotal role in the men in green and gold going back-to-back at the Rugby World Cup in France.

Libbok did his thing in the pool phase, steering the ship his way. With an emphasis on attacking flair, he gave the Boks an added dimension of dynamism, creativity and sting with his vision and mercurial skillset.

Since making his Test debut against France in Marseille last November, his development at the highest level has been satisfactory. He’s not the finished product yet, but 14 Tests into his career, he’s coming along nicely and on the current track, he’ll still be in the mix come the 2027 World Cup in Australia as he’ll only be 30 then.

Pollard, the ultimate general and big match player, will be 33 and Rassie Erasmus will again do everything in his power to get him to the global showpiece. Given his bad run of injuries over the last few years, it’ll be 50/50 at best whether the two-time World Cup winner will be up for one last hurrah on the biggest stage of them all.

Damian Willemse, the youngest double World Cup winner in history, has filled in at flyhalf with mixed results but made the No 15 jersey his own in France and is more likely to evolve into an inside centre if he’s to make a serious move from fullback in the coming years.

The lack of options outside of these three men is an issue that should already have been tackled. The flyhalf problem in the country is nothing new and an additional potential heir apparent to Pollard should have been designated by now.

The floundering of the current crop of flyhalves in the URC has brought the issue back into the spotlight. That a natural scrumhalf covering 10 in the Lions’ Sanele Nohamba has been the best of the bunch in recent weeks says it all about the sorry state of flyhalf stocks in South Africa.

Nohamba is a talented player and deserves nothing but credit for the way he’s slotted into the No 10 jersey at Jozi’s pride, but his diminutive stature means he’ll never be a legitimate option to pilot the Boks at pivot. He’s only in the role at franchise level at the moment because of Jordan Hendrikse’s poor form.

The younger of the Hendrikse brothers has already battled serious injuries, as has Gianni Lombard and another blue-chipper in Kade Wolhuter, and while none of these young prospects are “could-have-beens”, the time has come for them to stand up and stake their claim.

Unfortunately, Curwin Bosch continues to wallow in mediocrity. Capped twice for the Boks – against Argentina in 2017 and Wales in 2018 – the 26-year-old has failed to become the franchise flyhalf the Sharks had hoped he would despite being given an extended run in the role.

Boeta Chamberlain also hasn’t shot the lights out and continues to bounce around between flyhalf and fullback while Lionel Cronje is 34. The pivot with the most promise at the Shark Tank is new signing Siya Masuku. The former Cheetahs ace will get his opportunity in due course and could make some waves.

At the Bulls, Johan Goosen continues to blow hot and cold. At 31 and given his history with injuries, the 13-Test veteran’s time has likely come and gone and his possible return to the Bok fold would probably only be in a stopgap capacity.

Chris Smith is a no thrills performer who’s done a commendable job without setting Loftus on fire and probably needs to click into a higher gear if he wants to get Erasmus’ attention. Former Scotland international Jaco van der Walt is back in South Africa and what a story it would be if the 29-year-old wound up in the green and gold.

Jean-Luc du Preez’s decision-making and bad habits mean his chances are slim, while overseas-based Tinus de Beer and once-capped Robert du Preez are dark horses, although the latter is 30.

Finally, there’s a shining light of what could be in Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu. A prodigious talent who seemingly has it all aside from experience, it’s not a matter of if but when the 21-year-old will become a Springbok. The one concern is he’s being played at No 12 by the Stormers at the moment and will likely play most of his rugby there once Libbok returns.

And so, there’s another wrinkle in the South African flyhalf saga.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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