Bok options at No.9
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Scrumhalf seems to be the one position Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has little to worry about.
Just two years ago the Springboks were in dire need of a well-rounded, cutting-edge No.9.
New Zealand had Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara, Australia had Will Genia and Ireland had Conor Murray.
At the same time then Boks coach Allister Coetzee was left with the Ross Cronje, Louis Schreuder and Rudy Paige.
Pickings were slim for Coetzee and made worse with the 30 Test-cap rule for overseas-based players.
Fast forward to two years later – with the World Cup fast approaching – and current Springbok boss Erasmus sits with a long list of scrumhalves.
However, whether they are suitable candidates is the big question.
Thus far, Erasmus has made Francois de Klerk of Sale Sharks his preferred Springbok No.9, while the Bulls duo Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl completed the pecking order.
De Klerk is certain of his spot in the World Cup squad and with good reason.
Known for inconsistency in the past, the 27-year-old has been in great form for Sale Sharks and South Africa since returning to the Test Arena in June.
Part of the Springboks’ iconic 36-34 win over the All Blacks in 2018, De Klerk’s ability to read the play and agility at the breakdown gave the Boks that much-needed extra vigour.
One attribute which certainly hands him a unique advantage over fellow contenders and makes him a recognisable threat to opponents it’s his rigid defence, evident during the historic win in Wellington and the England Test Series in South Africa.
The back-up ‘dancers’
Papier and Van Zyl’s places in the World Cup squad seems to have diminished on a weekly basis.
The duo, part of the Springboks’ Rugby Championship side, have been given the Super Rugby season to cement their place in the squad.
However, despite Erasmus’ massive faith in the duo, it seems like their form have taken a dip under Bulls coach Pote Human.
On the other hand, Erasmus has the options of a few outsiders.
Northampton Saints scrumhalf Cobus Reinach has been sending timely reminders of his prowess.
The 29-year-old delivers amazing performances in the Premiership and is currently the league’s leading try-scorer, with 11 tries.
His form makes it extremely challenging not to toss his name in the selection mix.
Another name that pops up is Hershell Jantjies.
In the absence of Jano Vermaak, the scrumhalf has been one of Stormers’ standout performers. The 23-year-old scored a match-winning try during his side’s win over the Lions.
And his recent display against the Bulls certainly does not fault his mission, but his lack of significant international experience could be problematic.
While, the likes of Cameron Wright, given enough game time at the Sharks, is another inform No.9 that has been overlooked when it comes to the Green and Gold jersey.
Nonetheless, with the Super Rugby’s conclusion looming and the Premiership already in the play-off zone, one thing is certain, whoever makes the squad will need ample of time before the Boks face New Zealand in their opening World Cup match in September.
By Leezil Hendricks
Rassie Erasmus’ view: