The Springbok future’s in good hands (and feet)

2011-10-15 14:21

Though it’s generally accepted that South Africa has reached the end of an era in Springbok rugby, only hooker John Smit and lock Victor Matfield are officially saying farewell to Test rugby at this stage.

But presumably we have also seen the end of some other stalwarts.

Smit’s obvious successor needs no introduction. That Bismarck du Plessis had to play from the bench for so long will be a topic of discussion in South African rugby circles for many years to come.

Matfield’s line-out brain is virtually irreplaceable, but Andries Bekker will no doubt be earmarked to fill these reliable boots. He naturally brings several skills of his own.

Apart from Smit and Matfield, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and lock Danie Rossouw (both destined for Japan), prop Gurthrö Steenkamp and lock Bakkies Botha (France) and lock Johann Muller (back to Ireland) are also leaving the South African fold. Though none of them have officially hung up their rugby togs as yet.

This means that replacements will have to be found for all four locks selected for the IRB World Cup this year if SA Rugby Union continues to shun overseas-based players.

Gerhard Mostert, a promising lock, also plays in France.

Bekker’s partner at line-outs should be Flip van der Merwe of the Bulls, while their provincial colleagues, Rynhardt Elstadt (Stormers) and Juandré Kruger (Bulls), are at this stage most likely next in line.

Apart from these four, SA’s lock cupboard is rather bare, so there is lots of motivation for newcomers here.

Du Preez’s marshalling skills will be missed, but very few Springbok fans can have any reservations about this position being filled by Bulls’ Francois Hougaard, a bundle of energy.

Which brings me to this point: What does France have that SA doesn’t? I can’t help wondering because it’s a great pity to see Steenkamp also packing his bags.

In the past season or two, the giant prop certainly fulfilled his duties. However, with Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, in the front row, SA rugby is in good hands.

Rumours are circulating that centre Jaque Fourie and winger Bryan Habana may also be looking at Japan as their future rugby-playing home. But we can rest assured knowing that Western Province will do everything it can to retain the services of Fourie in particular.

SA is fortunate in the backline with a good crop of wings like Gio Aplon, Lwazi Mvovo and Bjorn Basson and centre Juan de Jongh. The future really looks good.

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