Is Vincent Tshituka knocking the Bok door down?
There is no shortage of quality loose forwards – both based in South Africa and abroad – that are available to the Springboks.
What is even more pleasing is the number of exceptional youngsters coming through and pushing the established players.
Or, as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says: ‘Trying to knock the Bok door down!’
In South Africa’s five most recent Tests the combination of captain Siyamthanda Kolisi, Albertus Smith and Duane Vermeulen was used.
Franco Mostert started at blindside in a couple of Rugby Championship Tests Down Under, while Jasper Wiese was at No.8 in the two home Tests against Argentina last year.
The combination of Kolisi, Mostert and Wiese featured in the decisive third Test against the British and Irish Lions last year, after Pieter-Steph du Toit’s unfortunate injury if the second Test against the B&I Lions.
Marco van Staden featured off the bench on occasion, while Dan du Preez also featured against Los Pumas.
Those names are likely to again be high on the Springbok coach’s selection roster for this year’s internationals – which starts with a three-Test series against Wales in July.
However, on the domestic scene there are a number of talented youngsters putting their hands up – Lions blindside flank Vincent Tshituka (23), hard-working Bulls No.8 Elrigh Louw (22) and Stormers bruiser Evan Roos (only 21), not to forget the Sharks’ six-times capped Bok Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
The names of Louw and Roos were often featured when the conversation turned to life after the 35-year-old Vermeulen.
The other poser is what does the long-term future look like post-Du Toit, who turns 30 this year.
The name Vincent Tshituka is one that must surely start to feature on national team short-lists.
He was again at the forefront of the Lions’ impressive 15-9 win in a bruising encounter with an Edinburgh team brimful of Scottish Test players.
Aside from scoring a crucial try, he carried the ball 12 times for 56 metres and made 12 tackles – earning him yet another Man of the Match award for a team on a four-match winning streak, after they were unable to buy a win earlier this year.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen and stand-in captain Reinhard Nothnagel were lavish in their praise of the young Tshituka – born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but schooled at Northcliff High in Johannesburg.
Visa issues resulted in him and his brother Emmanuel (who started at No.8 against Edinburgh) being unable to travel with the team to Dublin for their URC match against Leinster back in February.
That is an issue that must be resolved soonest.
What is not in question is their talent and form, especially the elder of the two brothers, Vincent.
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“He is definitely in good form,” Van Rooyen told @rugby365com, when asked about the flank’s string of impressive performances.
“I think his workrate – off the ball and with the ball, whether it is in defence or attack – is special.
“He is definitely one of the guys that stop momentum and gives you momentum in the team.
“The way he plays and his character, it is difficult to miss him, it is difficult not to see him and it is difficult to not talk about him.
“I would think that in the SARU boardroom, his name will definitely be written somewhere on a piece of paper.”
The coach added that the presence of Tshituka is central to the team’s impressive run.
“He is a physical athlete and I think that sums him up nicely,” Van Rooyen added.
“His speed and the ability to beat players, the ability to stop players, getting one or two offloads in [is special].”
However, it is not just on the field where he adds value.
“He is a great guy and he brings a lot of energy into the team,” Van Rooyen said, adding: “He is just a nice, chilled character.
“He is special to us and I think you can see from his performances that he is enjoying life.”
Nothnagel also spoke of the value he brings to the dressing room.
“Vince, from a player’s perspective, he always has a joke — he is a funny guy,” the burly lock said.
“When he gets on the field, he does his job.
“That’s the thing as players that we respect the most.
“Even if we have a bad training week, when I stand next to him on the field, I know he is going to do his job — that’s what makes him a special player for our team.
“He just goes 150 percent every time and if he makes a mistake, he makes a mistake but he rectifies it probably within two phases after that, so he is very valuable to our team and he is a very, very good team guy.”
It may take a few more Man of the Match performances to get that national call-up, but there is no doubt Nienaber and Co would already have taken notice.