Johannesburg - Various local rugby stars can expect to be weighed up at Test level next year for a final shot at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. One of them is Western Province’s JD (John Dave) Schickerling.
The 2018 season is seen as a last chance for trials in the run-up to the rugby showcase in Japan, but not at the cost of victories in matches.
Players such as Schickerling, RG Snyman, Ox Nché and even Rosko Specman could be given a chance to prove that they can make a contribution to the current group of Springboks.
In certain positions, players may be able to earn a spot on the starting team, while in others, it is only the depth that will be tested.
In short, there is still hope for players who have not been in the Springbok picture recently.
At the same time, there could be some among the 2017 group of players who will only play Super Rugby next year and not Test rugby.
Lock is one of the positions in which South Africa is spoilt for choice. With players such as Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Ruan Botha, Schickerling and Snyman, South Africa probably has the most depth of any team in the world. Even 36 Test-capped veteran Flip van der Merwe still pummels players weekly for his French club, Clermont.
The competition between them, which will determine who goes to the World Cup, will be something to behold.
Schickerling is ready for the challenge. He ticks all the boxes required of a world-class lock.
He is 2.02m tall and weighs 109kg. He plays with great aggression, is a reliable lineout operator and a strong ball carrier and has a high work rate.
“It has always been my dream to go to the World Cup,” Schickerling told City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport a few days ago.
“It would be an incredible honour and privilege to play in the World Cup because I believe that is what every young rugby player dreams of".
Few have that privilege
The former Paarl Gimnasium pupil has had to walk a tough road since breaking his neck in 2014.
“With my injury I didn’t think it would be possible to play again, but when my doctor asked me if I wanted to play again I realised this was an opportunity I had to seize with both hands. That’s why they had to do a second operation [so I could play again].
“In the beginning, my rehabilitation was really difficult for me. I later started believing in myself again and that it would be possible. It was the most incredible feeling in the world when, with everyone’s support and motivation, I was able to get back on the field and practise with the guys ... and to play my first match again".
Schickerling has shown great promise ever since his school days. He represented the national schools team in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, he was a Junior Bok and last year he played for the South African A-team for the first time against the English Saxons.
Schickerling sees the fact that he has to compete against Etzebeth and Du Toit for a position in the Stormers’ starting side as a positive.
“They help me a lot with my lineout game. It is a privilege to learn from two Springbok players. Few players have that privilege. I will just keep working hard".
Although he has been blessed with wonderful talent, the Calvinia-born player believes that hard work is the only route to Test rugby.
“I don’t take anything for granted. The second chance that I got to play rugby is my greatest driving force".