Quintin van Jaarsveld highlights five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship clash against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Reinstating Marx as starting hooker against the Wallabies in Sydney predictably saw the Springboks’ lineout operate like clockwork again and put the driving maul back in motion after two rough weeks with Joseph Dweba in the role.
Marx, however, has more than just continuing to supply that stability on his plate this week. His mission is to cut the head off the snake in his head-to-head battle against Pumas captain Julian Montoya.
There is no better hooker clash in world rugby at the moment, with Montoya being every bit of the ball hawk and clinical contributor Marx is. Marx will likely have to contend with the returning Agustin Creevy for a hot minute as well before he makes way for Deon Fourie.
With Handre Pollard’s injury being more serious than initially thought, he’s now possibly out for the rest of the year while Elton Jantjies won’t feature again anytime soon after being sent home in disgrace after news broke of his tryst with the team dietician over the weekend.
As a result, Willemse’s task has gone from serving as a stopgap in the Sydney Test to having to see out the rest of the campaign at pivot. A breath of fresh air at flyhalf, he brought a much-needed new dynamic to the Springbok backline in his first Test in the green and gold No 10 jersey and came away with the Man of the Match award.
Commanding it was not. He’s never been a general or claimed to be. He’s a mercurial playmaker with great vision and feet and used these strengths to create line breaks and dance past defenders in the 24-8 win.
The work ons were clear; dedicate time for goal-kicking practice and refine your kicking out of hand. He would’ve done just that, so all eyes will be on him to see if he can kick on.
It’s ironic to include Kriel among the quartet who’ll be in the spotlight given that he’s gone unnoticed for the longest time. For all the talent and experience he has, the 54-cap veteran hasn’t made an impact for the Springboks in ages, his quiet outing back in his preferred No 13 jersey in Sydney sadly the norm rather than the exception when it comes to the quality of his recent national contributions.
It’s clear Kriel has the backing of the Springbok coaches and that he will, barring injury, be on the plane to France for his third World Cup next year. However, no team can afford and no player wants to be considered a passenger.
For Kriel, getting back to his best doesn’t mean throwing audacious offloads or scoring a hat-trick but rather showing more hunger and intensity to emerge from the shadows that have swallowed him.
Initially, the Springbok brains trust suggested rising stars like Louw would have to bide their time until after next year’s World Cup before they break into the squad. Instead, the 22-year-old prodigy proved he’s undeniable.
Yet, after forcing his way into the squad, he would’ve known playing time would be in short supply and it has. He hasn’t featured since making his debut in the 32-29 come-from-behind win over Wales in the season-opening Test in Pretoria.
Although it was a solid cameo off the bench, which nearly netted him his first Test try, Louw will be hell-bent on going big in Buenos Aires. Such a natural dynamo, give him 30 minutes and watch him blow up.
After running roughshod in the Gallagher Premiership, blazing a trail so bright that he was voted Players’ Player of the Year, the herculean Harlequins centre’s hard-earned Springbok comeback against Wales in Bloemfontein was cut short by a hand injury.
That little taste of Test rugby, three years after his previous run-out for the national side, has left Esterhuizen that much hungrier for more and he’ll now get his chance.
He probably would’ve liked to start, but much like the rest of the “Bomb Squad”, being let loose to cause chaos in the second half will likely maximise the impact the 1.93m and 113kg barnstormer makes.