Cobus Reinach reaffirmed the quality of South Africa’s scrumhalf options for the British & Irish Lions series in July and August.
Reinach played the final 20 minutes in Montpellier’s European Challenge Cup final win against Leicester at Twickenham, but his effort was match and title-defining for Montpellier.
Johan Goosen was named man of the match but his midfield mate Jan Serfontein and Reinach were as influential in getting Montpellier only their second European title in the history of the club. Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber would have been among those whose television was tuned into Twickenham on Friday evening.
Bulls coach Jake White led Montpellier to their first European Challenge Cup title several years ago. Veteran Springboks hooker and 2007 World Cup winner Bismarck du Plessis, celebrating his 37th birthday today (Saturday) played in that match, as did South African-born French international Paul Willemse.
Du Plessis was at it again against Leicester at Twickenham on Friday evening. His glory days belong in the past but even in the present he was enough of a menace at the breakdown to secure vital turnovers in the final quarter of the game.
Reinach, like Du Plessis, played the final 20 minutes. He was equally good in how he controlled field position. Reinach was one of the three Springboks scrumhalves at the 2019 World Cup and scored the fastest hat-trick of tries in World Cup history. He again showed his value and experience in the big moments and it would be a major shock if he wasn’t included in the Springboks squad that will be named in early June.
Sale’s Faf de Klerk and Stormers Herschel Jantjies were the two scrumhalves for the Springboks in the World Cup final match 23, but the 14-Test Reinach is good enough to start against anyone. This trio, along with another veteran Ruan Pienaar, provide the most comfort for Nienaber when it comes to selection. South Africa is particularly blessed for scrumhalf depth.
Springboks World Cup-winning flyhalf Handre Pollard played the final 15 minutes and was strong under the high ball, precise with his decision-making and particularly calm in everything he did. He took contact without hesitation and his only blemish was missing a 50 metre penalty. There was no problem with the distance but his radar was off.
This was Pollard’s second match back after an eight month recovery from a knee operation and he looked good.
The South African midfield duo of Goosen and Serfontein were composed and while Goosen scored the match-winning try in the second half it was Serfontein who put down a marker to the Springbok selectors that he should not be the forgotten man of overseas-based Springbok midfielders.
Serfontein was huge in the context of the final. He did the small things with accuracy and turned small margins into big gains with ball in hand. He was also powerful in his defence.
Serfontein, who was named the best u20 player in the world when South Africa beat New Zealand in the final at Newlands in 2012, is still just 28 years old. I have no doubt he will add to his 35 Springbok Test appearances between now and the 2023 World Cup in France.
Jacques du Plessis, who played as a replacement No 8, was busy and aggressive. He will definitely add value to White’s Bulls, as will Goosen who finally appears content on a rugby field, having given up on the game just two years ago and prematurely retired.
His season at Montpellier has reinvigorated his appetite for the game and if anyone can get the best out of him, it will be the 2007 World Cup winning coach White.
Goosen and Du Plessis will be available for the Bulls for the Currie Cup season.
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