Why Springbok giant RG will only grow further

There is a proviso: it is impossible to know in advance just how settled a sports star will become, following a move to particularly faraway climes.

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History shows that high-profile signings in previously unfamiliar territory don’t always comprehensively work out.

But just by accepting terms with Irish powerhouses Munster as the next chapter in his professional rugby life, RG Snyman has probably done himself a significant favour in the bid to only enhance his credentials as an international-class lock forward.

It is an astute move by a man undoubtedly wishing to build substantially not just on his tally of Springbok caps to this point (23), but also to beef up the proportion of them as a starting element: he has only run out in that capacity eight times, so not quite 35 percent.

Bet this much: if the 25-year-old man mountain represented most other major rugby nations, he would already be boasting considerably more appearances and starts.

But as a South African, he is a victim, if that’s the right word, of ongoing depth of national excellence in the second row ... arguably even to the point that this is a golden age in that respect.

The volume of classy material at lock was a far from insignificant factor in Rassie Erasmus’s ability to mastermind the memorable World Cup 2019 conquest late last year.

While a frontline pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager (though the latter forced off with a serious shoulder injury well before halftime in the Yokohama final against England) began the key showpiece, Erasmus knew he had dreamy second row back-up amongst his “bomb squad” of substitutes through Snyman and Franco Mostert.

All have sufficient youth on their side to be able to serve the cause confidently throughout the next cycle to RWC 2023 in France, and in a couple of cases beyond it, too.

In Snyman’s favour, as he seeks to up his own Bok profile, is his comfortable versatility between the cares of both No 4 and 5 duty.

While currently seen largely as the back-up to more established, 85-cap meanie Etzebeth as a “front enforcer”, the 2.08-metre, near-120kg specimen has already shown - in his time at the Bulls when bulkier Jason Jenkins often wore four - that he can be just as proficient at the more athletic-driven and lineout-steering demands of No 5.

His long-striding explosiveness as a ball-carrier is already renowned, helped by the fact that he had several seasons on the Bulls’ books; their fast and rock-hard surface was tailor-made for the open-play aspects of his armoury.

More recently, Snyman has been on the books of Honda Heat in Japan, which also generally fits the “looser” profile of his game: the Top League there is not overly renowned for the brutality and physicality of forward play.

But his availability on initial two-season  terms with Johann van Graan-coached Munster from the outset of the next European season - alongside another star SA capture in the shape of centre Damian de Allende - should also go a long way to fine-tuning the earthier, more coalface-driven side of things for him.

Apart from the obvious considerations of traditional, particularly grim winter weather on the Emerald Isle, which can make for some classic, low-frills northern arm-wrestles, the club he joins has a strong overall pack ethic and heritage.

Lying second in their conference just two points behind Edinburgh after 13 rounds of the latest PRO14 season when it was suspended, they are three-time past champions and were bidding strongly for a first title since 2010/11 when the coronavirus cut came a few weeks ago.

Munster have always prided themselves in high-calibre locks, including the likes in the recent past of 98 Test-capped Donncha O’Callaghan and the iconic Paul O’Connell.

It may not have escaped Snyman’s notice that the tough-as-teak latter, who played for Ireland 108 times, captained the British and Irish Lions - SA-bound again next year - on their last tour of our shores in 2009.

Snyman will be wanting to play a prominent role for the Springboks in that glamour series next year, and he joins Munster fuelled by encouraging words from a former Bok captain and Munster representative, Jean de Villiers.

Speaking on an Irish rugby podcast recently, De Villiers assured fans of the Irish heavyweights that they would be taking on board a “massive human being with an unbelievable skill set”.

No guarantees, but Snyman could become a cult figure in Ireland with his striking physical profile, unruly hair, generous beard and overall rugby X-factor.

His tenure, at a club already boasting a popular South African-turned-Irishman in loose forward dynamo CJ Stander, should only be good for his already seriously burgeoning game ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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