Rassie Erasmus has solved the Springboks’ wing crisis!
As much as he might be experimenting out wide, we can all agree that Erasmus is onto something solid with Makazole Mapimpi, Aphiwe Dyantyi and the injured Sbu Nkosi to choose from.
Mapimpi is a ruthless try-scorer, Dyantyi is blessed with jet shoes augmented with deft footwork and a nose for the try-line, and Nkosi is a fantastic physical specimen who proves to be a handful in attack and a workhorse in defence.
Each of these players offers something different, but they all share the common traits of top wings in the modern game: finishers with a high work-rate who are physically present in defense, no matter their size!
With all due respect to the Bok wings chosen during the failed 2016 and 2017 seasons, it was a painful sight watching the tramlines being turned into freeways by opponents that took advantage of a muddled and inflexible gameplan which left the likes of Raymond Rhule, Ruan Combrinck, Courtnall Skosaan and Dillyn Lleyds horribly exposed.
At one point in 2017, Mapimpi was one of the leading try-scorers in provincial rugby, but that only amounted to an invite to the Bok training squad, an absolute farce if there ever was one!
I still have hopes for the hard-nosed Combrinck to find his way back into the Bok setup, and with the likes of Bulls winger Travis Ismaiel knocking on the door, Erasmus’ cup doth runneth over.
The new wing division’s introduction to international rugby against England was a helter-skelter one. Most of England’s tries in the June series resulted from miscommunication between the Bok centres and the outside backs, which was a clear indication of a lack of chemistry that comes with new combinations. This is something that is easily overcome through gaining experience.
By the same token, Dyantyi, Nkosi and Mapimpi scored some stirring tries that month (factoring in the one-off time waster against Wales in Washington DC). They scored the sort of tries you associate with a backline approach that plays to the strike-men’s strengths, and not the flukes that peppered the dog’s breakfast of 2016 and 2017.
Barring injury, a disastrous loss of form and/or a tweak in tactics, Mapimpi and Dyantyi are surefire starters from this weekend’s tricky outing against Los Pumas in Mendoza until at least the home matches against the Wallabies and All Blacks. No wings in the competition will provide a sterner test than New Zealand’s Rieko Ioane and Waisake Naholo, and this contest will serve the purpose of gauging Mapimpi and Dyantyi’s progress.
There needs to be clarity in what goes on at flyhalf and in the centre pairings to get the best out of your wings. Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am have started at 10 and 13 in three out of the last four Test matches, which at least shows consistency in those positions. Once the coach makes up his mind regarding who gets the 12 jumper between Andre Esterhuizen and Damian de Allende, the Springboks will have a settled backline for the first time in a long while as Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux are the outright scrumhalf and fullback respectively.
With all this to make one feel optimistic about what 2018 might still hold, its great to know that our backs have direction and the firepower to punish teams. And was it not wonderful to see Dyantyi deny himself a hat-trick against Argentina, instead putting away Mapimpi for his second try of the game?
These gentlemen are genuinely electrifying players with the potential to become global superstars, and our rugby is better for it too as we search for worthy successors to Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen.
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