Johannesburg - RG Snyman is doing everything right to replace Eben Etzebeth in the three Springbok tests against England in June.
While the injury of a world-class player such as Etzebeth would have caused a Springbok coach to break out in a cold sweat a year ago, Snyman creates excitement around what he could deliver at test level.
Even Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus agrees the Bulls’ 23-year-old player has all the qualities of a modern test lock.
“One tries not to say too much about players in newspapers, but everyone can see that Snyman is playing good rugby,” said Erasmus in response to a query from City Press’ sister publication Rapport this week.
“He carries the ball well. He is hard and good at cleaning out at the breakdown. His handling is equally good. He does everything that is required of a lock in the set phases of the game.”
This week, Erasmus consulted with Etzebeth about possible plans for his return to the game after a shoulder injury has kept him off the field since last year’s test against Wales.
But unless the unexpected happens, it is unlikely that the iron man will make the June 2 test against Wales in Washington, DC, or the first test against England at Ellis Park.
He is a valuable asset for the Boks and Erasmus wants to manage him right.
JD Schickerling, the other strong contender for the number four Bok jersey, has however had his hopes dashed by a torn bicep.
Etzebeth’s replacement will therefore have to be Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Lood de Jager (all Bulls), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers) or Franco Mostert (Lions). They are the locks who have been invited to the three national training camps. Erasmus did not speak to the only lock based overseas about next year’s World Cup tournament in Japan.
Eramsus has already formed a clear picture of who his lock pair against Wales and England will be. But form and injuries could still influence his plans.
What is encouraging for Bok rugby is that there are still choices for the lock pair, even in the absence of Etzebeth. Snyman is, however, making it difficult for Erasmus not to pick him.
Except for Etzebeth, Schickerling and Warren Whitely, the national coach did not have any concern about injuries before this weekend’s Super Rugby matches. He hopes to soon have more clarity on when Whitely, who is a strong contender for the captaincy, will be able to play again.
“Let me put it this way, I have not set any deadlines or requirements regarding the number of minutes a player has to play to be considered for June’s tests. The chances are better that, if we are forced to, we’d pick an experienced player who was injured and who didn’t have a lot of playing time, over an inexperienced, young player who didn’t have a lot of playing time.”
Two of the so-called inexperienced players whose progress Erasmus will follow with interest after their injuries are the Lions’ Cyle Brink and Cobus Wiese from the Stormers. Both saw game time as replacements for their Super Rugby franchises this weekend, but will have to regain their places in the starting line-up quickly to be considered contenders.