Five Springbok fringe players who have impressed
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by David Legge
JOHANNESBURG - World champions South Africa won a series against the British and Irish Lions, defeated Argentina twice in the Rugby Championship and put mainly young newcomers on show since early July.
The exception, age wise, was 31-year-old scrum-half Cobus Reinach, who revelled after an injury to first choice Faf de Klerk cast him into the limelight.
Here, AFP Sport highlights five Springbok fringe players who impressed during the five win-one loss home campaign after 19 months in the international wilderness due to the coronavirus pandemic:
The play-anywhere back is being groomed as the successor to veteran Francois Steyn in the key role of utility back when the world champions opt for the so-called 'bomb squad' six-two forwards-backs split.
This ploy worked a treat when South Africa won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, enabling them to replace six of the eight forwards during the second half.
One of the two replacement backs will ordinarily be a specialist scrum-half and the other must be highly versatile, capable of playing at fly-half, centre or full-back, and Willemse fits the bill.
Widely considered as one of the outstanding young prospects in the country, full-back Fassi started twice on the left wing and scored on both occasions.
His tries against Georgia, in a warm-up win ahead of the Lions series, and Argentina were achieved through powerful running, strength and courage in limited space.
The try against the Pumas was particularly memorable as he twice held on to the ball with one hand while under pressure before crossing the line.
The 2021 season began with a clear order at scrum-half: De Klerk followed by Herschel Jantjies with Reinach the third choice and seemingly set for limited game time.
But when De Klerk was ruled out of the series-deciding third Test against the Lions, Reinach started as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber believed Jantjies was more suited to an "impact" role off the bench.
Jantjies then joined the injured list, allowing Reinach to start three consecutive matches and excel in each of them.
Tendai Mtawarira -- usually started as loosehead prop in the Springbok team for a decade before retiring after the last World Cup.
Now, an 'Ox' is competing with new first choice Steven Kitshoff for the right to wear the number one green and gold jersey.
'Ox' starred in the first Test against the Lions until a neck injury forced him to retire, but he was back for the initial victory over Argentina and once again demonstrated his scrumming prowess.
Wiese took advantage of an injury to Duane Vermeulen and staked a claim to becoming the first choice eighthman when the 35-year-old retires.
Vermeulen is recovering from ankle surgery and likely to be available for the rest of the Rugby Championship, but it must be comforting for Nienaber that he has such a capable replacement.
Prone at times to conceding penalties, Wiese was otherwise hyperactive in tight and loose exchanges and appears to have a long Springbok career ahead.