South Africa

WEEKEND SPORT

‘Green and gold’ SA rugby talent on display at Springbok Showdown 

‘Green and gold’ SA rugby talent on display at Springbok Showdown 
From left: Lukhanyo Am will lead SA ‘A’ against the British and Irish Lions. | Regular Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is likely to miss the first Test. He is one of six players currently Covid-positive. (Photos: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz)

After an extended pause due to the coronavirus and countrywide lockdown, South Africa’s rugby talent is ready to engage in their second bout of competitive action in as many weeks.

 

Following the success story of Superfans Saturday, which was the first bit of competitive rugby action on our shores in over six months, starved rugby fans are in for another treat this weekend as a mixture of Springbok regulars, Blitzboks, as well as youngsters looking to force their way into the national set up go toe-to-toe.

The match, which has been coined the “Springbok Showdown,” will feature two teams (Springbok Green and Springbok Gold). The teams will be captained by Siya Kolisi and Lukhanyo Am respectively, while Mzwandile Stick will be coach of the Green team, and Deon Davids will take charge of the Gold team.

Stick was forced to make three changes to his match-day squad for the clash after Oupa Mohoje tested positive for Covid-19. Trevor Nyakane (prop) was withdrawn from the squad after being in close contact with his former Toyota Cheetahs teammate.

Furthermore, former Junior Springbok utility back Mnombo Zwelendaba was ruled out due to a hip injury.

In spite of these enforced changes Stick is satisfied that his team can do enough for the win on Saturday.

“We have a good balance in our team if you look at the mix between the youngsters and senior players,” he said. “We have the likes of Siya Kolisi, Duane (Vermeulen), Elton (Jantjies) and Frans (Steyn) that were with us at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, while we worked with some of the youngsters at a junior level, and it is great to give them a taste of a Test week.”

Davids is equally pleased with his team’s preparations: “The week has gone very well so far, with good enthusiasm at training and a great eagerness to learn and to absorb what is happening in this special environment,” he said.

“We will see a fascinating battle between two interesting and exciting team combinations, each one consisting of experienced RWC winning Springboks, established franchise players, some Blitzboks and some really good youngsters coming through the ranks.”

Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber drafted 25 players each in a ‘schoolyard pick’ situation, all of whom are based in South Africa, with the 50 players set to compete at Newlands to try and impress.

One of the most impressive players in a rampant Sharks team earlier this year, Sikhumbuzo Notshe said he was eagerly looking forward to the showdown. Notshe, who won the last of his six Test caps in 2018, will join forces with Nizaam Carr and Marco van Staden in a dynamic loose trio for team Gold.

“It will be tough. We are going up against World Cup-winning loose forwards in Duane and Siya, while Arno is also an experienced campaigner and played for the Springboks before,” said burly number eight. 

“We also have an exciting combination – Nizaam, Marco and myself have played for the Springboks before, and although we don’t have the same experience, it will be good to go up against the best, and we will enjoy the challenge.”

Green team hooker Bongi Mbonambi, whose last Test was the Rugby World Cup final in Japan 11 months ago, when he was forced to leave the field early due to an injury, was equally excited about the occasion.

“It’s really good to be back again, especially in the Springbok setup,” said Mbonambi, whose direct opponent will be his Stormers team-mate, Scarra Ntubeni.

“It is good to see the young guys stepping up, and it is particularly encouraging that there are so many young guys getting picked and to train and be part of this occasion at Springbok level. They are getting to see exactly what happens and what it takes to be here, and the kind of meetings Jacques Nienaber and Coach (Mzwandile) Stick have had with us have showed them to see that it is not just about pitching up at the field,”

The match, which is to be played behind closed doors due to the ongoing Covid-19 scourge, will give Nienaber an opportunity to further assess his best options heading into what is still a potential date with New Zealand, Australia and Argentina in the Rugby Championship

Kick off is at 17:05pm. DM

 

 

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