Siya Kolisi fit for Bok spot

2014-02-16 10:00

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Loose forward positions are the most hotly contested in South African rugby and Stormers flanker Siya Kolisi is part of that stew.

With Bulls flanker Arno Botha out for the rest of the season, there is an opportunity for Kolisi to become the creative link in a Springbok back row that has become increasingly reliant on brute strength and physicality. It has been proven, to a certain degree, that brawn with brains works.

Rivals in the southern hemisphere have found the symbiosis while South Africa is still getting there.

With Willem Alberts, Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen the incumbents, Kolisi saw little time in a Bok jersey last season, even though he was the obvious choice as a substitute. In all the test matches the Boks played last year, he played for a total of just 109 minutes.

If the starters are able to maintain their form from last year, it will be difficult for Kolisi to get in, but this is where Super Rugby comes in.

With the exception of Louw, who plays for Bath in the Aviva Premiership in England, Alberts, Kolisi and Vermeulen will be subjected to the rigours of the seemingly endless competition, notorious for its long casualty list.

Alberts and Vermeulen have had their issues with knocks and bumps but with Bok players not having the kind of central contracts that blue-chip players in New Zealand have, it is likely coaches could run them into the ground, especially in the Stormers’ case.

With the injury induced absence of Eben Etzebeth, it is highly likely Michael Rhodes and Rynhardt Elstadt will be employed at lock for the Stormers alongside Argentinian international Manuel Carizza, leaving the back row duties to Kolisi, Schalk Burger and Vermeulen.

Over the past two seasons in the lead-up to his international debut against Scotland last year, Kolisi proved himself to be the most adaptable of all the

Bok loose forwards, having shown this form at Super Rugby level despite a sluggish start to the season. Very often, he swept well behind opposition defensive lines, much like the sweeper position in football, and ran at the shoulder of opposing defences in order to create pop-passing space for support runners.

That kind of angle often draws two tacklers and if the ball is recycled quickly and smartly, it creates an overlap.

Defensive patterns have wised up to this tactic in terms of drift defence but when it is executed correctly, it works wonders and even catches the keenest of defences napping.

Keeping this up will not be easy but to stake a claim to a Bok starting jersey, Kolisi will know what lies ahead of him.

Keeping to what worked for him last year will work again in his favour but with Burger back, the dynamic becomes much more interesting.

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