Friday, August 19, 2022

South Africa

Mallett: Who should start at No 8 for Boks in Vermeulen’s absence

Vermeulen will not form part of the Bok squad for the upcoming series against Wales as he recovers from a surgical procedure related to a lingering knee injury.

In his absence, the Boks could continue with Kwagga Smith at No 8, while exciting youngsters such as Elrigh Louw and Evan Roos are also options in addition to Jasper Wiese.

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Of course, Marcell Coetzee – who received somewhat of a surprise call-up – could also cover No 8, although he is also an option at blindside or openside flank.

In his column for Sport24, Nick Mallett has now shared his insight into the direction the Boks could go.

In the URC final, both Elrigh Louw (Bulls) and Evan Roos (Stormers) were true to the form that got them into the Bok mix in the first place.

Louw is a power unit, dominant on the ground and at mauls, with his physicality his strongest weapon. He is a like-for-like replacement for Duane Vermeulen.

Roos, meanwhile, adds dynamism, even as first receiver. He was getting double hit every time he got the ball on Saturday, often by Louw. It was a toe-to-toe battle, and who has the inside lane depends on how the Boks want to play in the first two games. If they want to play, and spread the ball in attacking Wales, then Roos is the front-runner. If they want to play like they did in the 2019 World Cup semi-final win over Wales, however, then Louw is the more attractive option.

While that has been a popular debate, I don’t think either of those young future stars will be wearing the No 8 jersey in the first Test… 

I have written in a previous article about how important communication and leadership is when picking a No 8 – and, in that sense, I think Marcell Coetzee emerges as a dark horse.

Brilliant for the Bulls as a leader this season, Coetzee would do a similar job to Vermeulen for the Boks. His form has been as good as any of his competitors, even if he has played his rugby at No 7, while he comes with international experience and pedigree.

The favourite for the role, though, is the exciting potential of Jasper Wiese, who finished the British & Irish Lions series in the No 8 jersey.

He has already been involved in the national set-up and was huge for Leicester in their final this past weekend, so why would Nienaber jump to Roos or Louw when you have a guy who has already performed at the highest level?

Wiese or Coetzee should both be more fancied if Nienaber thinks he needs leadership in that position, which he had in abundance in Vermeulen.

Many believe Roos should replace Vermeulen after a sensational URC season

Roos – who has just been called up to the Boks’ squad – has completed a dream tournament by walking away with the inaugural Player of the United Rugby Championship Season Award, which forms part of the annual SA Rugby Awards.

The 22-year-old Roos, who was part of the Stormers team that won the URC Grand Final in Cape Town last weekend, beat off the challenges from Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee and his team-mate Ruan Nortje, Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Vincent Tshituka (Lions) and Warrick Gelant, another member of the Stormers’ championship-winning side.

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The six finalists were decided by a media vote, as well as nominations from the coaching teams of the Springboks and the four participating franchises, and finally a voting process from supporters through Vodacom’s digital channels.

Apart from celebrating their first international competition victory with his Stormers team-mates, Roos capped a superb season by walking away with three other URC Awards – the Players’ Player of the Season, the Next-Gen Player of the Season, and the Fans’ Player of the Season.

“We are delighted for Evan and this award is well deserved given his form and consistency throughout the competition,” said Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.

“The fact that he received this honour in a competition featuring some of the best players in the northern hemisphere also shows the depth and quality of players we have in South Africa and especially young players.”

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