CAPE TOWN – With Super Rugby almost at the halfway mark and suspended due to the coronavirus, it’s an ideal time to look at the Springboks’ options in each position for new head coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus ahead of the Tests against Scotland.
We will assess the leading players this season at the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, and make our final selection. Let’s look at openside flank…
Bulls: Marco van Staden
Having missed the first few weeks due to concussion, Van Staden has played in just three matches this season. With the Bulls registering only a single victory, Van Staden hasn’t been able to win those turnovers like he usually does, recording one so far.
A renowned fetcher, Van Staden has had more of an impact with ball-in-hand, with eight tackle-busts from 31 carries.
He’s been busy on defence, with an average of 13 tackles per match, but just hasn’t played enough rugby to stake a real claim for a Bok recall.
Lions: Marnus Schoeman
The former Pumas stalwart has shown that he should’ve been signed by a Super Rugby team many years ago.
He might only stand 1.78m and weighs less than 100kg, but Schoeman is an all-action figure – much like an Energizer bunny: never-say-die.
He seldom goes to ground immediately, pumping those legs in the tackle, and he has a good turn of pace.
He has made an incredible 42 carries in six matches, with eight tackle-busts – although he does a lot of the dirty work by forcing his way forward around the fringes – and has scored three tries.
The 31-year-old Schoeman does have a penchant for giving away penalties, and that has been the case again in 2020 – he has run up seven so far – but due to his style of playing on the edge, he is always pushing the boundaries.
He is a tackle-machine as well with 57, and has made five turnovers.
Sharks: James Venter
A Durban schoolboy, Venter returned home after playing behind Marnus Schoeman at the Lions, and it has proved to be the right move.
Slightly taller than Schoeman at 1.82m, the 23-year-old is a stocky flanker who is also a bit quicker than his former teammate.
Venter has added that vital balance to the Sharks loose trio alongside the hard-working Tyler Paul and quick-silver Sikhumbuzo Notshe by hitting the rucks, looking for turnovers and being a willing ball-carrier.
He has made 33 carries and six tackle-busts, and in defence, he has made 66 tackles – which places him joint-seventh overall in 2020.
Stormers: Jaco Coetzee
Normally a No 8, Coetzee’s build and style seems to be better suited to the side of the scrum at Super Rugby level. He likes getting stuck in where others don’t, like at the bottom of rucks, and enjoys hunting down those flashy loose forwards.
But he is no slouch with ball-in-hand either – 13 tackle-busts from 26 carries is proof of that. He has also made 30 tackles and four turnovers.
With Siya Kolisi injured in the Stormers’ first match, James Venter has certainly put up his hand for a Springbok debut in 2020.
Statistics: super.rugby and foxsports.com.au
By Ashfak Mohamed