Springboks

Boks: Time to show Paige some love

2017-11-13 16:01
Rudy Paige (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – He tends to only get on the park with the siren not far away, and just as often when the horse has long bolted, to the detriment of the Springboks on a lopsided scoreboard.

READ: Coetzee to be sacked by December - reports

READ: Four Boks that must start against France

So instead of continuing to give him a customary few crumbs, smart management of Rudy Paige now would be to offer the scrumhalf a fairly generous slice of “cake” instead.

A personal suggestion, after first-choice Ross Cronje’s deep woes at No 9 against Ireland in Dublin last Saturday, would be to offer the Bulls halfback a promotion off the bench now -- plus the assurance that he has the three remaining tour matches (France, Italy and Wales) in a suitably reasonable opportunity to try to re-establish himself.

And yes, perhaps even “bust” if he doesn’t cut it in that time.

Paige just seems too perennially a “splinters” feature for the Boks – that’s where he has earned 75 percent of his 12 caps from – and this season he has been overlooked by coach Allister Coetzee several times for starts.

His five 2017 appearances have all been as a substitute, and in that period the uncomplaining (at least it seems) camper has watched as either Cronje or Francois Hougaard has almost always struggled to put a real stamp on proceedings.

What’s more, when the 28-year-old does get some game-time, it is usually pretty close to a token gesture very late on.

The most “generous” time he has had on the pitch in the calendar year has been 20 minutes – and he might have been tempted to offer a slightly less-than-enthusiastic thank you on that occasion: the Boks were already 36-0 down in that eventually 57-0 horror show against the All Blacks in Albany.

Usually it’s been a more meagre chance than that: he earned 10 minutes in the Johannesburg Test against France, 16 against Argentina at Salta, five against Australia in Bloemfontein and seven against the Irish in Saturday’s 38-3 sickener.

Clearly a popular squad presence, Paige scored a try that was especially warmly hailed by his team-mates in the French game, won 35-12, only four minutes after he left the bench.

On most of those occasions listed, though, he has barely had a chance to warm to the game, and that lack of exposure also means an increased risk of picking up general rugby rustiness – not ideal for a berth where quick actions and thoughts are required.

Cronje’s confidence can’t be too high after the way he was outsmarted on Saturday by Conor Murray, and it might not be the worst idea for the Lions man to be removed entirely from the match-day 23 against France this Saturday (21:45 SA time).

That’s unlikely to occur, but if it did, it would free up an opportunity at some point in the second half in Paris to assess the credentials off the bench of uncapped Louis Schreuder, the third scrumhalf in the touring party.

Whether Paige is a longer-term solution to the ongoing, worrisome poverty of genuine world class at scrumhalf for the Springboks is a very debatable point; on the few occasions he has had more generous game-time it is not as though he has wowed with his authority or X-factor.

But in the present climate, it is only right that he has another chance as a starter.

I hope it comes at Stade de France, and a bit beyond.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  ross cronje  |  rudy paige  |  rugby
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