Town - The No 9 jersey will always be a special one for the Springboks.
That is largely thanks to the
late, great Joost van der Westhuizen,
who was considered a pioneer in the development of the modern-day scrumhalf and
one of the best the game has ever seen in that position.
World Cup-winner Fourie du Preez, who played for the
Boks between 2004 and 2015, is also considered a great.
Since Du Preez's retirement at
the end of the 2015 World Cup, though, the Springboks have struggled to find an
obvious replacement at scrumhalf.
For two troublesome years under
former coach Allister Coetzee, the Boks were all at sea in terms of their No 9
Faf de Klerk was backed in 2016 and then tossed in 2017
when Ross Cronje was given his
Rudy Paige, meanwhile, was also involved over that time
frame but none of those three players did anything for their long-term
Now, new coach Rassie Erasmus
must back somebody for the upcoming international window in June, and the trend
of uncertainty looks set to continue.
Erasmus has been watching Super
Rugby closely this year, and while there has been a lot that has excited him,
he has not been overly impressed by the scrumhalf stocks.
"I wouldn’t say we don’t
have great depth because we’ve got four franchises and they’re all playing. But
I would agree that nobody has put his hand up and said 'this is my position and
the starting No 9 … you’re going to win a World Cup with me'," Erasmus
told media in Cape Town on Wednesday.
"That hasn’t happened.
"Our reference point will always
be to ask if we will win a World Cup with a guy if we put another 18 Test
matches onto him. That’s how you must judge the guys you’re going with."
Erasmus confirmed that he had
been in talks with De Klerk, now based at the Sale Sharks, about a possible
return to the national set-up while Cobus
Reinach (Northampton Saints) is another option.
"Are we going to look at a
guy like Faf who everybody has spoken about or a Cobus Reinach?" Erasmus
"Or if you put another 18
Test matches on Ivan van Zyl or Embrose Papier (both Bulls) … will
those guys go and win a World Cup for you? If the answer is 'yes', then you
should go with those guys.
"At this stage, I don’t
think anyone has put the stake in the ground to tells us that they’re our No 9
and we’re going to win a World Cup with them."