Cape Town – You have to be cautious of making hasty judgements based on evidence from one rugby match.
what certainly occurred at Loftus on Saturday was an exhibition of the
unusually multi-pronged skill set of that towering athlete RG Snyman in
the second row for the Bulls against the Reds.
it was his first start of the season, coming off injury, Snyman was
near-monumental in the important 32-17 Super Rugby triumph.
wasn’t just that he performed the customary lock chores well; his lean
but strong 2.07m frame kept popping up as an extra attacking factor,
playing no small part in their romp to five tries and a valuable bonus
He has always been a keen rampager, if you like, in open
play, blessed with quite startling bursts of speed at times and a
healthy eye for a gap, but it almost seemed as if his spell on the
sidelines has also seen him sharpen his offloading abilities – he
produced a couple of “Sonny Bill” gems in one of the Bulls’ more
entertaining, futuristic-looking showings of the year so far.
is commonly accepted by most observers in this country that experienced
strongman Eben Etzebeth has fairly clear-cut first rights to the No 4
jersey for the Springboks, and the 27-year-old may have to be either
injured or suffer an unexpectedly pronounced slump in form to lose that
mantle ahead of the critical objective of the World Cup in Japan.
Should Etzebeth remain the “main man” there, a mighty scramble will be on for the No 5 berth in the middle of the lineout.
holder is Franco Mostert: you can say that with mathematical confidence
about the now Gloucester-based workaholic of the engine room, as he
started as many as 11 of the 14 Bok Tests last year, in Rassie Erasmus’s
maiden campaign at the helm.
Clearly the head coach is partial
to the former Lions stalwart, who is almost always likely to give you a
tireless shift near the coalface and has a remarkable ability not to get
crocked or look noticeably jaded during a long season, into the
But despite the knowledge that overseas-based players
can be picked without restriction for the national team these days, the
domestic scene (or read: Super Rugby) probably remains a better place to
be in terms of impressing Erasmus and others in Bok circles, week in
and week out.
That is why I have a suspicion that Snyman’s
notably broad repertoire, superior X-factor and extremely comfortable
ability to occupy either of the lock positions could well see him
eclipse Mostert to the No 5 berth when the Boks kick off their Test year
against Australia in Johannesburg on July 20.
If that were to
transpire and he played his cards right, that could also see him
entrench his spot for the later business of RWC 2019.
also a good likelihood, remember, that his Bulls and Bok squad-mate Lood
de Jager, who was looking sprightly both as player and franchise
captain before a shoulder injury wrecked his entire Super Rugby campaign
a few weeks ago, will be back in the Bok frame at some point in the
Rugby Championship, and then onward to the bigger deal.
has stirring roaming abilities to add to his willingness to get stuck in
at closer quarters, and can also operate seamlessly at either four or
Somehow a Bok second row of Etzebeth and either of Snyman
or De Jager just has more of an excitement factor about it than, say,
Etzebeth and the metronomic grafter Mostert.
That said, the
Gloucester player has clearly been an important part of the furniture in
their healthy climb to third in the English Premiership at present,
often sharing pack duties with two old Lions allies in Jaco Kriel and
Ruan Ackermann and also hooker Franco Marais (formerly Sharks).
should stay right in the extended Bok squad frame, and fittingly so:
the Welkom-born competitor’s Test-level credentials are not in any
Increasingly, however, he may find it hard in 2019 to
match in pure game-breaking terms the attributes that mark Snyman and De
Mostert will play for South Africa this year, I’m pretty sure.
But just not in the No 5 jersey with as much regularity as he did in 2018, is my call.
No doubt he will fervently desire to quell that possibility, of course …
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing