South Africa... the land where animals roam the great plains, everyone understands that BBQ is the flavor of a chip and a braai is what you cook on, and forwards are seemingly assembled on the factory line faster than a black label can be bottled. Its both a blessing and a curse for those born into this rugby mad nation, because competition for positions is incredibly high and size counts for everything.
Size and physicality has always been something a Springbok side prides themselves on, and when one era of player moves on, without fail, there is a next in line just as capable of stepping up. Think of Bakkies Botha being followed by Eben Etzebeth, John Smit to Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts to Pieter-Steph du Toit and Schalk Burger to Siya Kolisi. So who is next in line to replace the invaluable Duane "Thor" Vermeulen?
This year the Springbok management has shown that Jasper Wiese is their front runner for the role after he got an extended amount of game time during the Lions Tour in the absence of Vermeulen. Playing for Leicester Tigers in the Premiership, he was somewhat of an unknown quantity to the home crowd. He played well when called upon however, despite being a little penalty prone and he has ensured he was selected to continue his development on the end of year tour, but is he the solution?
Whilst Wiese was taking his chance in the Green & Gold against the Lions, a younger player, Evan Roos was doing the same thing, albeit in the blue and white stripes of the DHL Stormers. He showed an incredible work rate up against the tourists and was bossing them around physically right from the outset. Roos boasts a powerful frame at 110kg and 1.92m, the perfect mold for a South African loosie. He has gone on from there to continue his great form throughout the URC and must be on the Bok radar by now.
I was surprised at his exclusion from the touring squad for the end of year tests as I believe he has shown he is capable of performing at the top level of domestic rugby and is ready for the step up to the international arena. He is a far more rounded player with ball in hand and boasts the same physical attributes as Wiese, so his selection seemed fairly obvious. Jacques Nienaber however, when questions on his exclusion, cleared the air:
"Those players probably fall in the category of fringe national players, where they are delivering proper performances at franchise level. If you look at it, there were probably one or two good performances from a teams’ perspective and I agree guys like Evan have put in some proper individual performances."
Roos started his career at the Sharks, where he made his Currie Cup debut in 2019. He has since moved on to the Stormers down in Cape Town and has reveled in the side, where more playing opportunities have allowed him to develop his game. He has represented SA at school level having played for SA Schools in 2018 as well as the WP schools in Craven Week.
At the young age of 21. Yes born in the year 2000, don't worry that made me feel old too. He has many years ahead of himself to build a successful Springbok career, but a game like that coming up against Scotland, could have been the perfect start. He has recently signed a contract extension in the Cape up until 2025 and i'm sure by this time next year, hell have had his 1st cap.