RG toughens up Bulls at vital time
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - A bit of “snarl” from big RG Snyman.
That ought to go a long way to stabilising the Bulls on Saturday as they face what really seems a make-or-break Super Rugby encounter with the Reds at Loftus (17:15).
The costly late slip-up against the Jaguares last weekend has piled the pressure on Pote Human’s charges to atone for it swiftly; a second successive home reverse to relatively modest foes would hugely lessen their playoffs chances this year.
But the revelation by the head coach that he hopes to have the hulking presence of Snyman available for the first time in 2019 this weekend is manna from heaven at a time when their lock stocks are so depleted by the absence of another top-notch Springbok, Lood de Jager, and others.
Whether the 2.07-metre giant is deemed ready to start or is used as an inviting impact presence off the bench on his anticipated recall from an off-season ankle injury remains to be seen, but just having him in the matchday squad against the Queenslanders will give the Bulls considerable extra “oomph”.
His likely presence will also go a long way to neutralising the threat of the Reds’ own, emerging tall timber of the second row in the form of Izack Rodda, the 22-year-old already boasting 17 caps for the Wallabies and probably as highly regarded as a long-term future banker for Australia as Snyman (24) is for South Africa.
Rodda is only a fraction shorter in tape measurement than the Bulls man, and both will be earmarked as key havoc-makers on the opposition throw-in to the lineout on Saturday, as well as meanies on the drive, in mauls and at clean-outs.
Snyman, of course, burst onto the Test scene with some force last year, when first-choice No 4 hardman Eben Etzebeth was unavailable for the June series against England, and the rookie contributed fulsomely to the 2-1 Bok triumph - he went on to earn a healthy total of 12 caps before the year was completed.
But then he took the dubious step - at least in the eyes of sports scientists and conditioning gurus - of having a spell in Japanese rugby with Honda Heat at a time when most, weary Springbok forwards take advantage of a modest enough in itself off-season.
Snyman duly returned to Loftus requiring surgery to the ankle, ruling him out to what is now only one game shy of the midway point in ordinary season.
The Bulls could seriously do with him hitting the ground running ... which is far from impossible given his naturally athletic abilities that, as with Etzebeth, only complement his more abrasive qualities.
But this will also be the start, assuming he does turn out against the Reds, of Snyman’s slightly belated 2019 quest to earn a Bok starting berth in a pivotal year.
For even if the 75-Test-cap Stormers enforcer remains the premier “front” lock in the country by a fairly clear-cut margin, the Bulls customer has adaptable credentials that make him a realistic contender also for the hotly-contested No 5 role in the Bok cause.
That shapes up as a dogfight, at this long-range point, between De Jager (expected to be fit from his shoulder injury some time in mid-year, well in time for the World Cup) and the now Gloucester-based renowned workhorse Franco Mostert, but Snyman’s name can just as seamlessly be added to the list given his own, proven comfort in the middle of the lineout.
On the inadvertent plus side for national coach Rassie Erasmus, any fears he might have had of Snyman succumbing to burnout too quickly in 2019 because of the player’s “non off-season” have now been thoroughly allayed by his several weeks of forced layoff.
Bulls mastermind Human, too, will be keenly anticipating seeing some benefits, and quickly, from a man wishing to make up ground in earnest ...
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