Boks: Make Skosan first back-three pick!

2017-05-22 15:55
Courtnall Skosan (Gallo)

Cape Town – It will be an injustice if Courtnall Skosan, the increasingly potent Lions left wing, fails to earn a Springbok debut in the fast-looming three-Test series against France.

It will be even crazier if he somehow misses the cut altogether for the first, 31-strong national squad to be announced on Tuesday (13:00) by coach Allister Coetzee, even if his presence in the most recent training party of 39 must be seen as a good, and entirely logical, sign.

The 25-year-old has been a livewire all season so far in the Lions’ surge toward a lofty seeding – possibly still the top one – in Super Rugby’s knockout phase.

He is part of a confident, current winning culture at Emirates Airline Park and, given memories of the Boks’ serial failures and insecurities last year, Skosan is exactly the sort of untarnished, freshening presence the green-and-gold cause needs in 2017.

Another incisive, almost constantly danger-signalling display by the compact No 11 punctuated the 51-14 dismantling of neighbours the Bulls on Saturday.

At times the Lions looked especially fluid and penetrative in the widest berths, a tribute in no small measure to the way Skosan and his suddenly-returned wing-mate Ruan Combrinck imposed themselves.

Combrinck was fast-tracked at the eleventh hour back to the Lions XV after his long-term shoulder injury when Sylvian Mahuza dropped out with his own injury … and quickly looked as though he’d never been away on the Lions’ right-hand side.

Indeed, helped by his brace of thrilling tries Combrinck may now jump back himself into the Bok squad for the French assignments, an opportunity to add to the first seven caps he earned for his country during the rocky last international season.

But Skosan just seems a “must” pick -- I would argue markedly more deserving at this stage than either of the other uncapped, earmarked wings in the training group, the Kings’ Makazole Mapimpi and Stormers’ Dillyn Leyds.

He has a soccer striker’s natural hunger to score when he is anywhere near the try-line, and is also able to make things happen in the narrowest of space with his deft footwork.

An indication of his eye for a gap and swiftness from a virtual standing start, too, is that Skosan is currently the individual in Super Rugby boasting the most clean breaks in the tournament – 28, if the stats are to be believed.

He is also a keen, sound-judging kick chaser and tenacious tackler and, while not exactly the sort of brutish physical specimen the Boks might desire somewhere amidst the back three, at 92kg and 1.83m he is not too notably diminutive, either.

Of all the wings or fullbacks in service for South African franchises during the present campaign, I believe Skosan – joint-highest SA try-scorer alongside Mapimpi in Super Rugby after 13 rounds with seven each -- has been the most impressive from an all-round point of view thus far.

Of course there could be one very significant stumbling block to his presence in the Bok left wing berth: it goes by the name of Bryan Gary Habana.

The much-decorated, Toulon-based Habana turns 34 on June 12 – two days after the first Test against Les Bleus in Pretoria – and sits enticingly on 124 Test appearances, just four short of eclipsing Victor Matfield (127) to being the most capped Springbok ever.

It should become clear on Tuesday whether Coetzee, who has had lengthy associations with the player, plans to employ him in 2017 despite the ravages of advancing age.

On the plus side, Habana would come armed with plenty of useful acumen about French rugby and its international players.

Also to consider is that the veteran 2007 World Cup winner is more than capable of switching sides to the right, a slot he has occupied with some aplomb in more Tests than some may realise.

That is an option for Coetzee to consider, as having Habana’s unusually vast experience at No 14 would nicely counter-balance the completely untried qualities of Skosan (albeit holder of SA ‘A’ honours from 2016) on the left.

I just hope Skosan gets his fully deserved look-in …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  courtnall skosan  |  rugby


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