Five Springboks who need a big tour of Europe
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Cape Town - The Springboks ended the Rugby Championship with a bang by beating the All Blacks 31-29 on the Gold Coast.
But they sustained three defeats in a row before that in Australia, losing twice to the Wallabies and then going down 19-17 to New Zealand.
The fact that Bok coach Jacques Nienaber has opted for essentially the same group of players for the end-of-year tour to Europe means that he is focusing on getting positive results, instead of experimenting with new players against Wales, Scotland and England.
But there are still places up for grabs in the starting line-up and match-23.
The Boks arrived in France yesterday for a week of training and 2023 Rugby World Cup promotional events.
Here are five men who need to have big tours, for their own development and the Boks’ success...
Willie le Roux
The Bok fullback has not been as bad as many have made him out to be this year.
Le Roux has made some valuable contributions on attack and defence.
He has claimed a number of up-and-unders under pressure, put in some clever little chips and kicks downfield, is a key cog in organising the backthree defence and operated as a second flyhalf alongside Handre Pollard.
But Le Roux had a nightmare in the first half against the All Blacks, and was replaced at the break by Frans Steyn, who made a massive impact with his lengthy touch-finders.
Le Roux needs to repay the faith shown in him by Nienaber, and one way he can do that is by being more of a strike-runner on attack.
That is what got him into the Bok set-up in the first place, and it could be the point of difference for him, as the opposition will expect him to kick or pass almost every time.
Le Roux’s courage should never be doubted, but he needs to cut out those unforced errors as well...
Handre Pollard is the clear first-choice flyhalf, but Jantjies must build on that sparkling last quarter that he produced against the All Blacks.
He took charge like a No 10 should, making the big plays – such as that scoring pass to Makazole Mapimpi and the superb drop goal – and he slotted a few crucial goal-kicks.
Jantjies lines up flat and attacks the advantage line, and his passing game adds much-needed width to the Bok backline.
The only way he can earn more game time, and even a start, is to keep on igniting the side when he is on the pitch, especially with Pollard far from his best this year.
The Stormers scrumhalf battled with injury before the Rugby Championship tour, which saw Cobus Reinach start against Argentina in the absence of the injured Faf de Klerk.
But once they were both fit, normal service resumed, with De Klerk starting and Jantjies on the bench.
So, if all things are equal, Jantjies should wear the No 9 jersey in all three Tests against Wales, Scotland and England, with De Klerk out with the hip problem.
If that’s the case, he needs to grab the opportunity to show that he can handle the responsibility of starting a Test – having done so just twice in 18 matches.
His first major challenge will be to implement the Bok kicking game, as that goes against his natural attacking approach.
But Jantjies has that ability to spot a gap in the defence, and he must use his speed and tactical nous to create openings for the Boks with ball-in-hand.
The former Lions stalwart is always a ball of energy on the pitch, but will that be enough against the more confrontational forwards that he will face on this tour?
He is also essentially playing out of position as a blindside flank, either as a starter or off the bench.
So, Smith needs to add a different dimension to the Bok attack as a ball-carrier with his exceptional speed across the ground, and contest the breakdowns as well.
There are several specialist blindsiders who have been left out, so Smith will have to prove that he was the right choice.
Following the injury to Frans Malherbe, Nyakane is most likely to start at tighthead prop on this tour, having also done the job at loosehead this year.
So, he will be even more important figure for the Boks on this trip, especially as the three teams will be looking to get their revenge on the South African scrum from the British and Irish Lions series.
Nyakane is a solid scrummager, and his real impact comes in the tight-loose.
He is able to grind forward with ballin-hand at close quarters, run off the flyhalf and hit those rucks.
And throw in his busy tackling and the odd breakdown steal, and you have as complete a front-rower as you could wish for.