Challenges for an axed Bok and converted flank
DOMESTIC SPOTLIGHT: Ruan Combrinck is not the first Springbok to get the axe and he won’t be the last.
Now Lions coach Swys de Bruin has challenged Combrinck to force his way back into the Lions selection frame via the Golden Lions XV in the domestic Challenge competition.
Combrinck, a stalwart during the Lions’ amazing run that saw them reach back-to-back finals for the past three years, will start at fullback when the Golden Lions host the Falcons in a Challenge match at Ellis Park – a curtain raiser for the Lions versus Waratahs Super Rugby encounter.
In another intriguing selection Hacjivah Dayimani, a talented loose forward that has featured in almost 20 Super Rugby games for the Lions, will run out at centre for the Golden Lions in the domestic competition.
The demotion of Combrink, who has lost form through a number of debilitating injuries, will send a clear signal to other senior players in the Lions set-up.
As a result of a spate of injuries, the most recent shoulder damage he suffered while playing for his Japanese club Kintetsu Liners in September last year, the 28-year-old has played only 332 minutes for the Lions in Super Rugby this year.
In those 332 minutes, Combrinck has made 28 tackles and missed nine tackles – a success rate of just 76 percent.
Combrinck has done fairly well on attack – with 25 carries and 352 metres gained – an average of 14.1 metres per carry.
He could be an extremely valuable player to the Lions and the Springboks when he is at the top of his game.
De Bruin made it clear he must show his desire to return to the international stage through the domestic ranks.
“Commies [Ruan Combrinck] is an interesting guy,” De Bruin told a media briefing at Ellis Park.
“He is [a] brilliant [player]. He is a bit off form and he knows it.
“He must fight for his position.
“Mentally it will always be a challenge, but they [players] must work through it.
“The challenge is for Combrinck – if he wants to play [Super Rugby for the Lions] again.
“If he is good enough we will pick him. If he is not, we won’t,” the coach added.
The selection of Dayimani is at the other end of the scale.
He is being moved to midfield with a view to the future.
Dayimani weighs in at 99 Kilograms and has a powerful defensive game – including 58 successful tackles out of 68 attempted – to go with an impressive attacking game (39 runs, nine defenders beaten and two clean breaks during his 292 minutes on the field).
De Bruin said the 21-year-old has the physical and athletic attributes necessary to become a centre.
“I’m very excited. We will play him – the Falcons – for about 60, 70 minutes at centre.
“It’s a thing that we looking at, [with a view] to the future,” De Bruin said, adding: “We had discussions with him and his agent, as well Rudolph [Straeuli, Golden Lions CEO].
“Hacjivah has done well at loose forward. I’m not saying he won’t play loose forward again, but I want to try him there [centre].
“I want to really see how he goes, because all his attributes lead towards [him being] a brilliant centre.”
De Bruin said he has a ‘gut feeling’ about playing Dayimani at centre.
The Lions coach has made an equally dramatic call more than a decade ago when – while still at the Sharks – he suggested a switch for Tendai Mtawarira No.8 to loosehead prop.
Mtawarira often speaks about his hesitation at first, but then embraced the move and has become a legendary Springbok prop – not just the most capped South African player in Super Rugby, but also the most Tests as a prop.
“Beast [Mtawarira], all those years back, played No.8 and I knew he would go nowhere as a No.8,” De Bruin said.
“When I moved him to prop, the guys said you must never fiddle with positions. He is now the most capped loosehead.”
By Josh Isaacson