Cape Town - When they encounter All Black veterans Ma’a Nonu
and Conrad Smith on Saturday, raw Springbok centres Damian de Allende and Jesse
Kriel will be making massive concessions in experience.
But that hasn’t stopped television pundit and former New
Zealand backline flier Jeff Wilson, visiting South Africa for the Castle Rugby
Championship Test at Emirates Airline Park (17:05 kickoff), from backing the
Bok pair for bright futures in the game.
Nonu and Smith, each 33, are almost certainly in their
swansong year for the world champions, and bring a formidable combined tally of
180 Test caps (95 and 85 respectively) into the Johannesburg clash.
Weigh that up against the CVs of 23-year-old De Allende
(four Bok appearances) and the 21-year-old Kriel (Test debut against Australia
last weekend) and there is simply no comparison.
But Wilson, a guest on SuperSport’s Boots & All talk
show, was quite effusive in his praise for the SA pair, as well as other Bok
youngsters in Saturday’s line-up.
“I think this is a really good South African side,” the
60-cap wing and versatile sportsman said. “A couple of the younger guys last
weekend (in Brisbane) showed real mettle and they’ll get better.
“You need depth, you need to expose guys, and by doing that
again in this game ... as I said, I like this Springbok team, even if I’m not
saying they’re going to win!
“It was an outstanding game (against the Wallabies) last
week; great contest. I thought the Boks played really well, almost to the point
that ... well, I was at home and I thought 10 minutes into the second half that
I’d just record the rest for the next day because you were in complete control.
“When I watched (the remainder) on Sunday morning I couldn’t
believe what had happened. You’d looked dominant right across the park for the
Wilson added: “I like Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende ...
they’ve got a huge future in front of them. They just need time to settle, and
unfortunately there’s not a lot of that left (to the looming World Cup).
“But on the plus side for you, it’s the last year you’ll
have to see Nonu and Smith together; next year it’s somebody else. And when
Jean (de Villiers) comes back to give that experience balance ... it’s exciting
for South Africa.”
Nevertheless, he sounded a warning about the remaining
ambition of the All Black midfield combo: “Conrad’s still just a wonderful,
wonderful player, while Ma’a probably had his best Super Rugby season ever
“Playing with his old mate outside him, they want one last
trip to the big dance ...”
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing