The dust has settled at Loftus, the brandy hangovers are wearing off and barring the few black eyes, Saturday was a great day for South African Rugby. The so-called Springbok ‘B’ side showed that tag was merely one placed upon them by the media and not even close to an accurate description of the personnel tasked with tackling the Wallabies.
The World Cup squads are capped at 33 players, the current squad sits at 42 players and since the 2019 World Cup RasNaber have utilised a total of 59 players. Keeping that in mind there is bound to be one hell of a fight in the lead up to the World Cup squad announcement. The first-choice players will be fighting to hold onto their jerseys, whilst the fringe players will be fighting to see their name on a plane ticket to Paris too.
A host of senior players were sent to New Zealand early to allow them to acclimatize, shake off the jet lag and to hit the training field at full tilt come Monday morning. The misconception though, was that those at Loftus were a ‘B’ side. I don’t know how one could call it that when names like Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Snyman, Pieter-Steph, Le Roux and Am all featured. In fact, there were 12 World Cup winners (more than 50%) of the team ready to spoil Eddie’s day.
Competition within the squad is surely bubbling over at this point and it was great to see some players really step up to the plate over the weekend. The first player who did so is big Andre Esterhuizen. The man played like a man possessed, easily his best performance in the Bok jersey to date and he will have heaped the pressure on incumbent De Allende who looks set to start against the All Blacks. Andre carried phenomenally and was incredibly physical on defence. The insertion of hard hitting Samu Kerevi did not slow him at all. He got his chance and he took it firmly with both hands.
Marco ‘Eskom’ van Staden was immense for the whole test. When he wasn’t knocking the Aussies lights out with his big carries, he was getting stuck in at the rucks and making sure his physical presence was felt all over the park. Some were curious as to how he jumped Elrigh Louw in the pecking order, they surely have their answer now. Marco took his shot and should Siya remain unavailable, the 6 jersey looks well supported by both Kwagga and Eskom. He will likely be coming off the bench against the All Blacks and I am keen to see him back up this performance at Mt Smart Stadium.
Kurt-lee Arendse doesn’t need his performance dissected. It was obvious for all to see. This man could step four Wallabies defenders in a lift if he had to. He has now scored 10 tries in only 8 tests and the pressure is now firmly on Mapimpi for that 11-jersey come the World Cup, this could be the first big shake up in the starting XV that we see.
There were loads of incredible performances across the park on Saturday but these are the three who stood out most for me. They have edged their way closer to a seat on the plane and I look forward to seeing them back it up over the next 5 games. Now we turn our attention to the All Blacks who did a number on Los Pumas too.