Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The
Springboks, somewhere amidst their pretty wet-behind-the-ears back three, may
well need to make fresh room shortly for Ruan Combrinck.
A vibrant all-round
performance from the right wing should not be allowed to go under-appreciated,
amidst the broader team qualities that sparked their fabulous comeback to grill
the Hurricanes 44-29 in a Super Rugby semi-final at Emirates Airline Park on
early, team-wide defensive alignment difficulties which went some way to
explaining why the ‘Canes opened up a 22-3 lead at one point in the first
period – it turned out that the visitors more or less ran themselves off their
feet in the thin air during that time – Combrinck was as convincing as any
colleague in gradually discovering his A-game during the stirring Lions retort.
suitably primed now to go into battle in the enticing showpiece (Saturday,
16:00) at the same venue against the Crusaders’ own dangerous, similarly
in-form wide man on their left, Seta Tamanivalu.
Fijian-born customer, 25, who has earned three All Black caps thus far as a
substitute, confirmed his strength (he tips the scales at 105kg) and nose for
the try-line as he dotted two of the four ‘Saders tries in their 27-13 semis
triumph over compatriots the Chiefs.
will require some policing but plucky Combrinck is well capable of performing
that task, and quite possibly getting behind his direct opponent to create
comparable angst for the visitors on defence as well.
confidence should be high, as he demonstrated against the Hurricanes that he
has regained – since various injury-linked setbacks over the past year or so – much
of the appetite and sharpness that saw him earn his own maiden appearances for
the Springboks in the troubled 2016 season.
27-year-old quickly showed his mettle in the desperately tense home series
against Ireland, won 2-1, but then lost some form, parallel to the fortunes of
many team-mates, as the Boks progressively wilted – he was part of the side on
each occasion as the Boks crashed to England, Italy and Wales on the dispiriting
missing a significant chunk of the latest Super Rugby campaign, Combrinck has
been building a renewed head of steam in recent weeks during Super Rugby, and oozed
constructiveness in virtually everything he did on Saturday.
was just too late to bank a berth in the Bok side for the vastly improved 3-0
clean sweep of France during June, although he did represent SA ‘A’ against the
French Barbarians to earn valuable game-time in his steady climb back to his
captivating Super Rugby semi-final, Combrinck was handily like a second
fullback – always the sign of a particularly educated winger – with his
track-back work on defence and ability to boot raking touch-finders or general
occasion, kicks off the tee as a “deputy” to Elton Jantjies (far more
convincing again in all respects again) were not required, although the value
of his successful, high-pressure strike from long distance to steal the
quarter-final against the Sharks a week earlier will be remembered as
monumental if the Lions do go all the way to the main silverware against the
seven-time champion Crusaders.
slipperiness on the front foot against the men from Wellington was striking,
too, a situation highlighted by his magnificent chip-and-collect midway through
the second half, an event which led to the pivotal yellow-carding under major
defensive stress of Beauden Barrett; frankly, it looks that bit more cynical
every time you view it.
In order to
muscle his way back to a Bok start, Combrinck – who could feasibly be looked at
for the No 15 shirt as well -- will naturally need to unseat any of Raymond
Rhule (the slightly iffy, incumbent right wing) or Lions franchise-mates Andries
Coetzee or Courtnall Skosan who have not yet confirmed true international
submit that the back three remains arguably the area of the Bok brew with the
biggest remaining question marks, so he is worth serious contemplation by Allister
Coetzee for any of the No 11, 14 and 15 jerseys.
His broad range
of footballing attributes seem tailor-made for the premier-league demands of
the looming Rugby Championship.
perusal of what he offers will become even more of a necessity if Combrinck,
who is developing a nice little habit of excelling against New Zealand
opposition, shines once more in Saturday’s final …
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