This past Friday South African rugby viewers tuned in to watch the first live draft in rugby in this country ahead of the Springbok Showdown on the 3rd of October where the Springbok Green side will face off against the Springbok Gold team.
Springbok Green, coached by Mzwandile Stick with Rassie Erasmus as team commissioner will fight for national pride against Deon Davids’ Springbok Gold with Jacques Nienaber serving as his team commissioner. The game will have a Test feel to it as well as exploring the depths of South Africa’s talent pool with 25 of the 50 players selected yet to play a Test match for the Springboks, it is also an opportunity for the young players on the fringes of Bok selection to impress the management staff in training and during the game.
There were a few interesting points that came with the draft and watching them unfold will be something to follow with keen interest over the coming days and on the day of the match.
Yaw Penxe, a bright light in a dark tunnel
The Southern Kings’ financial troubles have been the only blight over the past few weeks as South Africa prepared for the return of rugby, but on Friday when the Green team coach Mzwandile Stick announced his right wing pick it was a rare bit of positive news for the King’s fraternity.
Yaw Penxe, a product of the Kings junior systems where Stick took his first coaching steps, has been a part of the Kings’ senior setup for the past 4 seasons and the selection is due reward for the 23-year-old winger’s consistent form in the past 2 seasons. Penxe will send a positive message that the Southern Kings remain a vital part of churning out talented rugby players.
Exciting midfield combinations of experience and potential
The class of Rugby World Cup winners, Frans Steyn and Lukhanyo Am will be on full display at the Springbok Showdown, Steyn for the Green team and Am will link up with the Gold team. Both players do not have much to prove, but they will look to guide their young centre partners.
Steyn will have the electric pace and dazzling feet of Wandisile Simelane on his outside, while Am will have the burgeoning talent of Rikus Pretorius playing inside him. It is this combination of promise and class on both teams that makes this such a mouth-watering midfield matchup.
Second row golden opportunities
Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and RG Snyman with the only fit lock from the World Cup winning squad being Franco Mostert, to compound matters, blindside flanker Peter-Steph du Toit who can play at lock is also out injured.
It means that the Springbok coaches will be looking at different options for the international window that begins in November. The 4 starting locks all have their strengths and will look to enhance their reputations, while Jason Jenkins off the bench may send out a timely reminder of why he is a capped Springbok lock. The second-row battle will be one to watch.
Gold squad’s Stormers core
Deon Davids’ squad feels a lot like a Stormers team with a few additions to strengthen the team, the starting team includes 9 Stormers players with crucial combinations like the front row and the 9-10-12 playmaking combination all hailing from the Cape Town franchise.
This will undoubtedly give them cohesion and an advantage over the Green squad who are a good blend of players across the board. Their undoing perhaps might be from a bench that does not even have one Stormers player. It remains to be seen how they manage in the final quarter of the game.
Green squad’s crucial experience
The Green squad has less Springbok Test players, but seems to have picked more experienced players in their team with a number of leaders – 3 of the 4 Super Rugby teams’ captains are in the Green team and 2 of them have captained the Springboks.
It is this experience and leadership that could swing the tie, Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn as the 10-12 leading a largely inexperience, but exciting backline. A World Cup winning hooker, tighthead prop, 8thman and captain in the pack will make things very difficult for the Gold team. In terms of balance, Green seems to have an edge.
It will an interesting game for all rugby fans, but most importantly, it signals the first step of moving towards the prospective Test matches that will begin the build-up to an important 2021 Test season.