Boks facing scrumhalf crisis for European tour

Cape Town - In 2018 Faf de Klerk has made the Springbok No 9 jersey his own. 

As long as he stays fit, De Klerk will be South Africa's scrumhalf at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. It is one of the few certainties the Boks have as preparations for that tournament continue. 

While De Klerk has started the last nine straight Tests for the Boks, it looks like he will be unavailable for the end-of-year European tour. 

His club, Sale Sharks, have issued a very clear 'hands off' warning to the Boks for the November internationals, suggesting that Rassie Erasmus and the club are in agreement that the player will not play for the Boks during that time. 

South Africa take on England, France, Scotland and Wales over November, and it is looking almost certain that Erasmus will have to back a different face at No 9. 

To complicate that dilemma even further, Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje has just undergone shoulder surgery and has been ruled out for the remainder of the year. 

It may seem like a problem for the Boks on the surface, but it could also be a blessing in disguise in that it forces Erasmus to explore his depth in the position. 

Here, we look at who is most likely to be backed in the No 9 jersey against England on November 3. 

THE FAVOURITE

Embrose Papier

He may still be incredibly green at this level, but Papier has been backed on the bench behind De Klerk this year and should be next in line. It might seem like a gamble throwing a player with Papier's limited experience straight into the Twickenham lion's den, but at some point the youngster needs to be tested. The bigger picture dictates that the earlier Papier settles into Test match rugby, the better for the Boks. Papier is incredibly highly rated by all of those who have worked with him. He commands his area with authority, has an exciting snipe and looks a more than capable passer. It will be a massive challenge, but if he gets through it then that can only mean good things. 

Embrose Papier (Gallo)

IN THE FRAME

Ivan van Zyl

Van Zyl has been a part of Erasmus' plans already in 2018 and, in the spirit of consistency in selection, is likely to be part of the touring party. Van Zyl did not feature for the Boks in the Rugby Championship, but he did play in the Test series win over England in June. He is perhaps more of an orthodox scrumhalf when compared to Papier, and an ability to do the basics well will always be an attractive quality when playing in the northern hemisphere. 

Ivan van Zyl (Gallo)

OVERSEAS OPTION

Cobus Reinach

Reinach's inclusion would make a lot of sense. He has been playing for the Northampton Saints since last year and his knowledge of northern hemisphere conditions stands him in good stead. Reinach has 10 Test matches to his name, but there are many who believe that he should have more by now. He was a part of Allister Coetzee's plans in 2017 without ever getting a game, but he could find himself back in the mix as Erasmus is forced to explore his depth in the position. 

Cobus Reinach (Gallo)

OUTSIDER

Louis Schreuder

Schreuder made his Bok debut in last year's loss to Wales in Cardiff and he has been a solid performer for the Sharks since then. He is a safe player who is strong on defence with an educated boot, and Erasmus could do a lot worse. 

Louis Schreuder (Gallo)
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