Boks to be given glimpse into 'Beast-less' future

2018-10-22 10:25
Beast Mtawarira (Gallo)

Cape Town - The Springboks, resurgent in 2018, are in Stellenbosch this week preparing for what will be a testing, year-defining northern hemisphere tour next month. 

There are 20 players currently based at the High Performance Centre, and others will join following the completion of the Currie Cup this weekend. 

On Saturday, after Western Province and the Sharks have done battle, Rassie Erasmus will name his squad for a tour that will see the Boks take on England (November 3), France (November 10), Scotland (November 17) and Wales (November 24). 

Overseas commitments are likely to ensure that Erasmus fields a different looking Bok side to the one that shone in the Rugby Championship, with the likes of Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux expected to stay with their English clubs.

Another major loss for the Boks was confirmed on Sunday when it was announced the Tendai Mtawarira would miss the tour with a neck injury. 

The severity of the injury is not fully known, but it happened in South Africa's dramatic 32-30 loss to the All Blacks at Loftus last month. 

The Beast-less Boks, must now find a new loosehead before they head north. 

With the form and ability of Steven Kitshoff, there doesn't seem to be too much of an issue on the surface of things. 

The 26-year-old has been sublime for the Boks throughout 2018, and while he has only started of his 33 Test matches to date, he is more than ready for an extended run in the No 1 jersey. 

That is one positive to come out of Mtawarira's absence. 

Another, and perhaps the only other, is that Mtawarira will have a few weeks of no rugby, which could prove to be a blessing in disguise. 

With 107 Tests to his name, there is no doubt that the 'Beast' is in the twilight of what has been an astonishing career. 

He remains crucial to the 2019 World Cup cause and having him in the best possible shape for that tournament has become a necessity for Erasmus. 

While it may appear that the Boks have depth in abundance in the front row, much of that applies to tighthead prop. 

Frans Malherbe, Wilco Louw, Vincent Koch, Coenie Oosthuizen, Thomas du Toit ... all are tightheads. 

The depth at loosehead, however, is less impressive. 

It looks now as if Trevor Nyakane will be next in line and he could find a place on the substitutes bench behind Kitshoff for Twickenham.

Nyakane has been out with a rib injury since the beginning of the June Tests while his conditioning was highlighted as a problem by former Bulls boss John Mitchell earlier this year. 

To add to the concern, Nyakane has been messed around somewhat in terms of what his best position is. 

Like Du Toit, he started out as a loosehead and then made the move to tighthead. 

On Saturday, however, Nyakane found himself back in the No 1 jersey as the Blue Bulls fell just short of causing a massive upset against Western Province at Newlands in the Currie Cup semi-finals. 

He is, in all likelihood, going to earn his 38th Test cap on November 3. 

Erasmus does, however, have other options. 

In the build-up to the Currie Cup semi-finals, WP coach John Dobson was praising one of his own in Ali Vermaak

Dobson said that the 29-year-old was one of the most underrated props in the country, suggesting that he might come into play as a 'Bok bolter' for the end-of-year tour. 

Juan Schoeman at the Sharks is another who is highly-rated by his own management and fans in Durban while the fit-again Ox Nche could see himself included after earning a Test cap against Wales in Washington back in June.

The main point, though, is that the Boks will enter territory that they are far from used to. 

Mtawarira is easily the most experienced member of the current set-up, and his absence will be felt in the changeroom as much as it is on the field. 

Kitshoff is more than capable and has been pushing Mtawarira for the No 1 jersey all year, but outside of those two there is very little in the way of tested loosehead depth. 

It is an area where the Boks have been blessed for the better part of a decade thanks to their Zimbabwean-born soldier, but this tour will provide a glimpse into the future. 

The Beast will not be here forever, and the time has come to start contemplating that certainty with a little more haste.

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...


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