If you tuned into the Podcast this week (which you can do here). You will know how excited I am about the Springboks newly formed center pairing. They may face one hell of an opening test as a combination, but Andre 'The Giant' Esterhuizen and Canan Moodie have all the ingredients necessary to build something spectacular as they run out together for the first time.
Andre has had limited time in the Green & Gold but he has taken every opportunity that came his way and shown his value. In 2023 particularly he has been a menace with his strong carries, ensuring the Springboks get over the gain line time and time again. What is often overlooked about the burly center are his soft skills. He is a great runner of the ball and possesses a strong offload game, something he has been able to develop well in his time at Harlequins with the attack minded Marcus Smith at 10.
Playing so frequently with Marcus Smith at club level has likely aided the smooth transition between Manie and Andre as they have combined well in their games thus far. Manie and Marcus play very similar styles and with a big 12 on his inside, Manie can give the crash ball at ease, whilst also working in behind him to set the wingers away, whether it be with a crisp pass or a cheeky chip kick. Weighing in at about 113kg and standing at a solid 1.93m tall, he has the necessary muscle to give the 106kg Jordie Barrett a handful on defence come Friday.
At 13 we have Canan Moodie. A youngster by all accounts, he looks destined to have an incredible and long career in the Green & Gold. Moodie is only 20 years old currently and is the second youngest Springbok debutant of all time, just behind the legendary Frans Steyn. Moodie has taken the field by storm this year. Whilst I once considered him on the fringes of selection for the Boks World Cup, he has gone above and beyond this year so far and is pushing hard for a place in the 23 come the World Cup.
You may be most accustomed to seeing Moodie on the wing for both the Bulls and the Springboks but the 1.9m, 90kg player has done duty in the 13 jersey for most of his young career. Moodie funnily enough, who was still a school boy in 2019, was seen painting himself with Lukhanyo Am's 13 jersey on ahead of the final in Yokohama. Whilst it may be quite different to playing a test at 13, he will understand the inner intricacies of the position well and this sets him up nicely for success here. I also can't be the only one who is constantly reminded of JP Pietersen every time Moodie makes a tackle or runs the ball up-field.
South Africans were left stunned when Lukhanyo Am's name was left out of the 33 man squad named for the World Cup and rightly so. Am is an incredible talent and it is truly sad that we won't see his skillset on display in France, but injury is part of the game and it is now time for the others to step up and fill the void.
Andre and Canan are getting their shot as a combination this weekend and we should all get right behind them. Whilst I wouldn't have expected this combination to debut against the All Blacks, in hindsight it is the perfect game for it. The All Blacks will throw everything into this game and should the new combination succeed, we will have many of the answers we need from the squad. If they can pull it off against the All Blacks and stem their lethal attack, then they can pull it off against anyone. I back them 100% and can't wait to see them take to the field.