Quintin van Jaarsveld highlights five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship finale against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.
Pieter – Steph du Toit
Clearly pleased with utility forward Franco Mostert after he made a match-high 16 tackles in the 36-20 win over the Pumas in Buenos Aires last weekend, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have drafted Du Toit back at No 7 in the only change to the pack in the hopes that the veteran rediscovers his best form.
It’s been slow going for the 2019 World Player of the Year in his reintegration into the Springbok side this season following a long injury lay-off and he’d love nothing more than to make a notable impact against the Argentinians
Fourteen years after he donned the No 10 jersey in the 26-0 win over Italy in Cape Town, Steyn is back in the Springbok saddle. Add that to the two-time World Cup winner’s unprecedented list of accomplishments.
As the longest-serving Springbok in history, it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Steyn would be the last man standing among credible flyhalf options in the current squad.
First Handre Pollard picked up a knee injury, then Elton Jantjies left under a cloud of shame following reports of his alleged affair with the team dietician and finally, Damian Willemse suffered a concussion in last weekend’s win.
The veteran played the cameo role asked of him in Buenos Aires well but starting and perhaps having to steer the ship for the full 80 minutes considering Faf de Klerk has to double as flyhalf cover on the bench, is a different ball game.
Especially given Steyn hasn’t played a full half of rugby since the week before he limped off in the 23rd minute of the Cheetahs’ 46-18 Currie Cup loss to Griquas in May.
The ageless enigma is as naturally gifted a player as you get and with his world of experience, he won’t be fazed by the challenge. If anything, he’ll be looking forward to putting his big boot to the Pumas.
While his difficulties are age rather than injury-related, Vermeulen’s in the same boat as Du Toit in that he needs a performance he can point to as progress and promise of positive things to come.
In combat sports, when a legendary fighter’s age catches up to him – like his trilogy bout against Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegasthis past weekend showed it has with Gennady Golovkin – he’s urged to retire as he has nothing left to prove.
In Test rugby, that’s not the case. Even a great like Vermeulen has to prove that at 36, he still has enough in him to make the required and desired impact at the World Cup next year. Saturday’s another opportunity for him to do that as a member of the “Bomb Squad.”
Faf de Klerk
Given the flyhalf crisis, the blonde-haired scrumhalf has to double as emergency pivot cover this weekend. Flyhalf’s not a completely foreign role to him; he played a lot of schoolboys and Under-19 rugby there and had a few outings at No 10 for the Lions and Sale Sharks.
He’s not a bad goal-kicker either, but the whole of South Africa will be hoping that it won’t be necessary for De Klerk to fill in at flyhalf. The 30-year-old says he’s up for it, though. “I’d definitely be comfortable in such a role. Test rugby is obviously another level, but if the team needs me to play there, I would have no objections. It’s no issue at all.”
Kurt – Lee Arendse
Arendse had a great debut against the All Blacks in Nelspruit up until his mid-air collision with Beauden Barrett. The New Zealand star crashed onto his neck but fortunately escaped serious injury, while Arendse was knocked out, stretchered off, and suspended for four weeks for causing the incident.
As a hot-stepping diminutive dynamo, Arendse’s a point of difference in the Springbok side and the perfect man to come on and score a quick try or two in a situation where South Africa will in all likelihood need a big bonus-point win to snatch the title away from the All Blacks.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Kurt-Lee Arendse.