Newcastle – The Springboks almost certainly know now that a compatriot of theirs will anchor the starting Scottish scrum against them in the World Cup match at St James’ Park here on Saturday.
WP Nel (Getty Images)
WP Nel, the stocky tighthead prop from the less than bright lights of Loeriesfontein, was curtailed to the bench at the outset of the Scots’ weekend encounter with the United States, which they eventually won by a comfortable 39-16 margin after a wobbly first half.
But that status was primarily because the Scottish side had come off a mere four-day turnaround from their Pool B opener against Japan, so certain core individuals did not start against the USA.
Nel is nevertheless basking in much of the credit for a dramatic second-half turnaround by the Scots, as he was among several revitalising changes made by coach Vern Cotter either at halftime or soon after the resumption.
The former Cheetahs No 3 made his debut for Scotland in August and is set to earn his sixth cap against the Boks -- and it should be back among the first XV.
Various summaries of the Leeds clash alluded to the fact that the bench effectively rescued the Scots, with the BBC match report stating: “Nel, in particular, was pivotal. He not only sorted out the scrum but he carried ball and also scored (a maiden Test try) ... immense.”
The 29-year-old was described as “outstanding” by the Daily Mail, whilst The Scotsman reminded of the first-half woes before Nel replaced Jon Welsh on the tighthead side: “The set scrum was shaky ... the Scots conceded one turnover and two free kicks, persuading Cotter to replace both props at halftime.”
Perhaps it is not cut and dried that Nel will lock horns with seasoned Bok loosehead Tendai Mtawarira; the “Beast” has been surprising below par from a scrummaging point of view at the World Cup so far, and may be under some threat for the No 1 shirt from Trevor Nyakane.
The Bok team is scheduled to be announced on Wednesday.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob is attending the Bok pool phase of RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.