Franco Mostert of South Africa talks to Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby. Photo: BackpagePix
Franco Mostert of South Africa talks to Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby. Photo: BackpagePix

No 7 flank is still problematic for Springboks end of year tour

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Oct 20, 2021

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Cape Town - With a reduced squad of 32 players travelling to Europe for the November tour, there were always going to be a number of unlucky local stars missing out on the Springbok group announced yesterday.

And I can understand why Bok coach Jacques Nienaber has stuck with an experienced squad, but it is still problematic that there is no specialist blindside flank in the team.

That role is ostensibly going to Franco Mostert, but he is actually a No 5 lock.

The only loose forward in the squad who has been a specialist at No 7 before is Duane Vermeulen, and I have said previously that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for him to operate there once more in the absence of the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit, as that would also allow Jasper Wiese to develop as a fully-fledged No 8 back-up to Vermeulen.

Apart from Mostert, Kwagga Smith is someone Nienaber mentioned in yesterday’s press conference who has been showing excellent growth since getting more regular game time following Du Toit’s injury.

But while there’s no doubting Smith’s excellent work-rate on attack and defence, he is simply not built to be a blindside flank – certainly not in the South African sense.

The Boks have always preferred a tall No 7 who is a lineout option, but who also has enough speed to break the line, while making endless tackles as well. In the modern era, Andre Venter, Juan Smith and Du Toit were the gold standard in that regard.

As we have seen against the British & Irish Lions and in the United Rugby Championship matches, the Boks need two lineout jumpers at the back, which would be Vermeulen and the blindside flank, with captain Siya Kolisi at openside flank.

Twins Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez were part of the Bok squad earlier this year, and would be ideal candidates for the No 7 role – especially with Rynhardt Elstadt also ruled out with an ankle injury.

If Nienaber genuinely doesn’t rate the Du Preez brothers, then surely Stormers star Evan Roos and Bulls giant Elrigh Louw have done well enough to earn call-ups?

Yes, both play at No 8 for their franchises in the United Rugby Championship, but have the necessary skill-set and physicality to be blindside flanks. In addition, Louw has played a lot of rugby on the side of the scrum for the Bulls, and only recently asked Jake White to specialise at No 8.

The Bok lock stocks are missing the injured RG Snyman and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, so it is not worth risking Mostert in the loose trio. I don’t feel he quite possesses the aggression and physicality required as a flank anyway, and he can make a bigger impact coming on as a secondhalf lock substitute for either Eben Etzebeth or Lood de Jager, with Marvin Orie and Salmaan Moerat the other second-rowers in the squad.

Nienaber had Marco van Staden and then Wiese on the bench in the two Rugby Championship games against the All Blacks in Australia, but against the more robust Wales and England on slower European fields, the

Boks will be missing a seasoned blindsider who can handle someone like Courtney Lawes …

IOL Sport

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