The Springbok coach, Rassie Erasmus, has taken players’ performances in the Guinness Pro14 into account when it comes to his squad selection for the upcoming one-off Test against Wales in Washington DC in the USA.
This is for the three-Test series against England in South Africa next month as well.
A lot of pundits have been of the opinion that the Pro14 is not up to the same standard as the Super Rugby and that players competing in the European competition will not be selected for higher honours.
Erasmus, who recently left the Irish giants, Munster, has a totally different opinion on the competition featuring teams from South Africa, as well as, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
The former Toyota Cheetahs winger, Makazole Mapimpi, is set for his Springbok debut next week when the Boks tackle Wales.
The powerful player is set to start in the Test along with Travis Ismaiel of the Bulls. While Mapimpi has had limited time on the park with the Sharks in the Super Rugby, he did impress Erasmus while playing the Pro14.
In his limited time with the Cheetahs in the competition he scored a total of 10 tries, and it’s on these grounds that he has cracked the nod to don the Green-and-Gold. At this stage he is not in the plans to start against the English a week later at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
A good debut could change this though.
The Cheetahs prop, Ox Nche, is also set for his international debut and it is believed that it will be during the Test series against England. Nche was somewhat a surprise exclusion last year. The mere fact that he started for the Cheetahs in their last six Pro14 games is an indication that Erasmus wants the front-rower in the mix.
It is believed that Nche is lined-up for a minimum of six Tests in 2018.
Oupa Mohoje recently appeared on the Springbok radar again as well. While he have represented the Springboks in 18 Tests, his consistent form has been hard to ignore. Injuries to numerous Super Rugby players has strengthened his chances of playing for South Africa again, but form is the main factor.
Nche and Mohoje had been conditioning in Stellenbosch with the Springbok assistant, Aled Walters. The Sale Sharks scrumhalf, Faf de Klerk, also joined the pair in the Cape, and this will end speculation on his return to international duty.
Erasmus did earlier indicate that he is keeping an eye on the Cheetahs in the Pro14 and that their performances are being analysed, but consistency is something he wants from the players to grab his attention.
“If you perform consistently in Pro14, you are probably better prepared for Test rugby. I’m not saying that it is tougher than the Super Rugby, but it is definitely more test match orientated in terms of tactics. It’s seldom that you are going to a win a Pro14 game with individual brilliance, but it’s all about tactics, it’s about tactical play. It is definitely a breeding ground for test players in pivotal positions.
“As were are monitoring the Super Rugby teams, we are also monitoring the Cheetahs and the Kings. It is positive that the Cheetahs are playing there.
“Whilst we haven’t had a camp with them, we have been analysing every single game from a coaching perspective.
“My message to the Cheetahs boys is, don’t think that we aren’t watching you and analysing you because you aren’t in the Super Rugby spotlight. We have five or six guys who watch every single game, with a profile on all the players.”
Rassie Erasmus is expected to announce his Springbok squad to travel to the USA no later than Saturday. – MORGAN PIEK