Johannesburg - What with Super Rugby stretching into August, the second tier players all bought by overseas clubs and certain contracted players precluded from playing in it by SA Rugby, the Currie Cup isn’t what it used to be any more. But it still is a tournament from which a few players can make claims for higher honours. Here are five who have put their hands up for the Springbok end-of-year tour.
(Full back, Blue Bulls)
He may stand at only 1.78m tall, but Gelant has been head and shoulders above everyone in the Currie Cup. In an age where there’s a statistic for just about anything in rugby, Gelant had scored the most tries (10), run the most metres (1 423) and made the most line-breaks (20) at the end of the competition’s round-robin stages. Springbok incumbent Andries Coetzee has been nothing short of manful in the position since his debut in June, but Gelant offers so much more: try scoring ability, creating them, an understanding of space and how to exploit it and allround skills so outrageous it’s difficult to believe he is a South African player. Bulls coach John Mitchell has thoughts about him playing outside centre, but for the time being let’s get the prodigy on the plane to Europe.
(Outside centre, Sharks)
Owing to another untimely injury, Am hasn’t had the opportunity to fully light up the Currie Cup, even though he did do some damage early on in the competition playing inside centre. But the fact that the Bok centres, especially Jesse Kriel at outside centre, didn’t look terribly flash, means he’s due the opportunity denied him by an eye socket injury the day he was named in the first Bok squad of the year. Am may not have the muscles of Kriel or the size of Jan Serfontein, but he has a wonderful rugby brain and the ability to do the right thing at the right time on a rugby field, including in defence and over the ball. He’s that rare thing in SA rugby...a proper outside centre.
At 1.81m Nkosi is not as tall as a player frequently nicknamed “Lomu” should be, but everything he does is pretty blockbuster. Possessed with tree trunks for thighs, raw power and explosiveness, a decent step and offload in contact and a skrik vir niks attitude, the raw Nkosi (he was only scheduled to play a little SuperSport Rugby Challenge before injury paved the way to Super Rugby) has the attributes to be a beast for South Africa. Incidentally, he is third on the top try scorers list (eight) and second on the line-breaks tally (15).
Thomas du Toit
With veteran Beast Mtawarira powering through what is supposed to be the nervous 90s in the Bok jersey and the flame-haired Steven Kitshoff in red-hot form, loose-head prop isn’t exactly a position which needs recruiting for in the national team. But “Thomas the Tank”, still only 22 despite seemingly having been around forever, has been scrumming powerfully for the Sharks. If the need somehow comes for a new loose head prop in the Bok side, he probably shades Ox Nche as the next cab out of the taxi rank on the basis of having started while the other has been providing impact.
(Loose forward, Lions)
If ever there was a candidate for out and out bolter for the end-of-year tour it would have to be the Blitzboks man. But as a 1.80m and 90kg loose-forward his case not only would need some advancing for the selectors to take it seriously, the Boks would also have to think about altering how they play to suit Smith’s speed and skill. While he seems to punch above his weight in contact, there are doubts if he would be able to do that all day in a tight game. But if the Bok selectors were to get a little adventurous with the vacant and troublesome eighthman spot, they could give him a go.