Bok spots up for grabs
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: With Super Rugby in limbo, evaluating a player’s form has become a very daunting task for international coaches – especially Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.
The newly-appointed coach already has big shoes to fill having replaced World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus, and the additional pressure of having to field the best just got extra complicated courtesy of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
All rugby worldwide has been cancelled, while SANZAAR is actively busy working on a new domestic competition as an alternative during these uncertain times.
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Despite SANZAAR’s effort, the new competition will give Nienaber a very short period to prepare for when – or if – Scotland and Georgia travel to South Africa in July.
Furthermore, the Springboks’ long injury list also provides another set of concerns, especially when it comes to the hooker and scrumhalf positions.
Stormers duo Mbongeni Mbonambi and Herschel Jantjies are both sidelined for months due to injuries, while Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach are overseas for a foreseeable time and with Schalk Brits retired there are loads of pressure to find a suitable replacement for the crucial positions.
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Nonetheless, the door opens for newcomers like hooker Joseph Dweba.
As the Pro14 is also suspended and the Cheetahs perhaps forming part of the ‘new domestic competition’ formulated by SA Rugby, it will provide the perfect platform for Dweba to test his skills against Southern Hemisphere opponents.
Dweba caught the eye of Director of Rugby Erasmus last year and with good reason.
The Cheetahs hooker showed his prowess with an impressive display during the 2019 Currie Cup season and his form during the Pro14 certainly did not disappoint.
Dweba’s talent also caught the attention of other clubs and in January reports surfaced that Bordeaux-Bègles were trying to lure the Cheetahs hooker to France, while the Sharks were also interested in acquiring Dweba’s services.
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In terms of scrumhalf, Embrose Papier has an opportunity to work his way back into the Springboks’ books.
Prior to the 2019 World Cup, the Bulls player was one of the scrumhalves bound to join the Springboks in Japan.
However, his poor form in 2019 halted all his hopes. The 22-year-old made his Springbok debut in 2018 at the back of a very impressive season. Marked by then Bulls coach John Mitchell as world-class, the scrumhalf’s form under current Bulls coach Pote Human took a huge dip as he was demoted to third in the pecking order behind Ivan van Zyl and Andre Warner.
With Warner at the Lions and Jantjies out injured, Papier has a chance to work his way back into the Springboks frame. Despite the Bulls’ struggling season, Papier has shown some glimpses of what made him so great in 2018. Against the Highlanders the 22-year-old was in solid form, instigating play and making Manie Libbok’s job a lot easier with his quick ball.
The scrumhalf followed that up with yet another noteworthy performance against the Reds in Brisbane, which included a five-pointer of their own.
However, the only thing that could prevent Papier from claiming a spot in the Boks squad is yet again lack of game time.