Cape Town – Is national coach Rassie Erasmus prepared to be flexible over his belief that RG Snyman is more of a “front” lock?
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That could be key to any chance of a recall to the Springbok starting line-up for the strapping Bulls customer against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.
The No 4 jersey is pretty much nailed down, of course, by one of the most experienced and trusted members of the Bok pack, Eben Etzebeth.
A 70-capper, Etzebeth has thankfully shown evidence of full recovery from his long-time shoulder problem over the last few weeks, having started the last three Tests and looking especially imperious, a little unexpectedly, in the first of those comeback matches against Argentina in Durban.
He will be a vital, core figure in the formidable task of trying to end a two-match Bok losing streak (Pumas, Wallabies) against the world champions, runaway leaders of the Rugby Championship all over again, at the “Cake Tin”.
But his second-row partner?
A number of Lions enthusiasts might well feel otherwise, but the last two Tests arguably haven’t produced quite enough from Franco Mostert to suggest his retention at five is a fait accompli.
He’s been more honest workhorse, in short, than possessor of a cutting edge.
There is a good likelihood that Pieter-Steph du Toit, another quality No 5, will continue his “re-education” in recent times as a blindside flank on Saturday, so that may be one less hurdle for Mostert to have to worry about if there is any chance his status is endangered.
Yet somewhere over his shoulder – hard to miss in the Bok camp, given his 2.06 metres – he ought to spot Snyman, another of the locks in the greater squad who has become a little more peripheral during the Championship (two second-half appearances off the bench) after his highly encouraging, maiden exertions as a starter in all three Tests of the victorious England series in June.
Etzebeth was still in rehab mode then, so with Erasmus clearly already excited about Snyman’s potential in the traditional enforcer slot, he got generous exposure against Eddie Jones’s charges and ticked boxes in most areas – including in his natural forte of the lineout.
It is there that South Africa have surrendered more of their efficiency than they would like recently, including in Saturday’s latest scoreboard disappointment against the Wallabies in Brisbane.
There would have to be certain more scientific reasons too, of course, but for sheer physical dimensions alone it is difficult not to believe that drafting Snyman into the team for Wellington would have an automatic, positive impact on the Bok lineout.
He stands considerably taller than the 1.97m Mostert and, with his 120kg-plus, would also give the Springboks superior weight at scrum-time and in the tight-loose; bear in mind that Snyman is also a freakish athlete when in full flight in open play.
There would certainly be considerable mongrel to a Bok second-row against the All Blacks (remember, they’ll be minus Brodie Retallick) if Etzebeth and Snyman joined forces: for a few seconds in that solo scuffle with seemingly two-thirds of the Wallaby team late in the second half, the latter looked just a little like Jack Nicholson in The Shining with that sadistic-looking smile.
But that would mean Erasmus having to alter his thinking, and be prepared to field Snyman as the No 5 “middle man”.
The player has got it in him … something Loftus fans should be willing to testify to.
For Snyman has spent plenty of time in that capacity at either Super Rugby or Currie Cup level with the Bulls, certainly whenever he has been partnered by another Springbok, the formidably-built young Jason Jenkins who is rather more of a specialist at four.
Their effectiveness as a combo was at least part of the reason for both ascending to Test status this season, so Snyman’s versatility is hardly in serious question.
Over to you for some thought, Mr Erasmus?
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