Injury setbacks to World Cup-winning Springboks locking duo Lood de Jager and RG Snyman could provide Leicester’s Jasper Wiese with an international debut against the British & Irish Lions.
With three months to the first Test there will be plenty ifs and buts, with one thing for certain, the preferred XV, on either side, is unlikely to see the first Test in Cape Town.
Injuries, more than lack of form, is the biggest threat to the Springboks. Several South African players will be in action in the two respective European finals at Twickenham on 21st and 22nd May respectively, and there are also the French Top 14 play-offs, which will feature South African players and Springboks contenders.
De Jager, despite the absence of official confirmation, will be a non-starter after a freakish training accident resulted in a facture to the leg. Snyman, who has been out for the past season, was said to be making progress with his club training at Munster. But a report from the Irish province wasn’t convincing that Snyman would be fit to play in the Test series, set to start in late July and to finish in Johannesburg on 7th August.
Eben Etzebeth is recovering from injury and is likely to play in the next month, while Franco Mostert (the other World Cup-winning lock) is the one Bok second rower who has escaped any form of injury setback.
Pieter-Steph du Toit, sensational since his conversion for the Boks from lock to No 7 flank, played his first competitive match for the Stormers last weekend. Du Toit, should there be a crisis at lock, is the obvious cover to partner Etzebeth, which would then allow for the likes of Wiese to be introduced to Test rugby.
The Bulls 21 year-old blindside flanker Elrich Louw has been outstanding domestically and is highly rated by 2007 World Cup winning coach Jake White, who, as coach of the Bulls, has earmarked Louw as a future Springbok.
Wiese left South Africa for England as an unheralded South African loose-forward, but in the past year has been the most dynamic of all the South African loose-forward imports up north.
Wiese, 25, had played for the Cheetahs in South Africa and joined Leicester in November 2020. Since his debut, four days after his arrival, he has consistently started and been the biggest influence among loose-forwards in the English Premiership. He has certainly been Leicester’s best forward. Wiese stands 1.9 metres tall and is 110 kilograms.
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber and National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus won’t be shy to dip into the off-shore talent, with six of the Springboks World Cup-winning starting backs based overseas. Of the World Cup-winning forwards, half the back are based overseas.
Erasmus will appreciate Wiese’s playing pedigree, given his affiliation with the Cheetahs, where he played his provincial and Super Rugby. Erasmus and Nienaber will also see Wiese as a player who has done it tough domestically in South Africa and also in the United Kingdom. Wiese’s familiarity, in playing against the players who make up the British & Irish Lions, will also be an advantage.
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland names his squad of 36 on Thursday, 6th May for the eight match tour of South Africa, with speculation that he will include several youngsters who are not regulars for their respective home union.
The Springboks, very much settled with the core of the 2019 World Cup-winning squad, won’t produce many surprises in selection. Wiese, though, could be the exception who turns a potential team crisis into a personal triumph.
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