When Ruan Combrinck opens his wardrobe, his Springbok blazer is the last item of clothing he probably wants to see – a moth eaten reminder of what could have been.
On a memorable night at Ellis Park on June 18, 2016, the Lions right wing saved the Boks with a try on debut against Ireland, bumping off Paddy Jackson before running over Jared Payne en route to the corner.
But, injuries and selection omission have denied the versatile outside back. He has seven Test caps, all of which came in 2016, but has thus far been deemed surplus to requirements by new Bok coach Rassie Erasmus
Combrinck’s hopes of a recall have been further dashed by the impressive performances from young outside backs Aphiwe Dyantyi, S’bu Nkosi and Warrick Gelant, together with the return of Willie le Roux.
Nkosi has been ruled out for an extended period with an ankle injury, though, leaving Erasmus with a selection poser at No 14 for the Rugby Champs.
Debutant Travis Ishmaiel had an inconsistent outing in the Boks’ 22-20 defeat to Wales in Washington, and neither him nor fellow Bok and Bulls wing Jamba Ulengo were invited to a recent Springbok training camp for Bulls and Stormers players.
This while one-capped Bok speedster Makazole Mapimpi, Ishmaiel’s wingman in the US, has been overtaken by Lwazi Mvovo and Kobus van Wyk in the Sharks pecking order.
Hence veteran wing JP Pietersen being tipped to make a long-awaited return to the national fold. The 2007 World Cup winner has plenty of experience, and his trademark runs and defensive work are legendary. He also ticks the required transformation target box.
Erasmus would have to appeal to Toulon’s prickly owner Mourad Boudjellal for the utility back’s release from the French Top 14 outside the agreed Test windows, though. Is it worth it?
Pietersen, who played the last of his 70 Tests in November 2016, will turn 33 two months before next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Surely opening the door for Combrinck, 28, who has scored four tries in his last four Super Rugby matches, including an excellent finish from a well-executed Elton Jantjies cross-kick in the Lions’ 40-23 quarter-final victory against the Jaguares on Saturday.
Together with a two-try outing at fullback for the Golden Lions XV in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge against the Blue Bulls last month, Combrinck has started nine of the Lions’ last 10 games.
The ‘Punisher’ remains a tireless defender, with his try-saving tackle on the Jaguares’ Bautista Delguy well after the final hooter in the Lions quarter final being a timely reminder.
Combrinck partners current Bok No 11 Dyantyi in the Lions’ back three, and his solid 1.83m/99kg physique (even beefier than Nkosi’s 1.81m/97kg) and ability to kick the ball a mile using both feet, would make him an asset in a dangerous kick-chase attack with Le Roux.
Combrinck will be a key man for the Lions in their Super Rugby semi-final against the Waratahs in Johannesburg next weekend, as they chase a third successive final. It’s yet another opportunity for him to roar for Erasmus.
Will the Bok boss listen, though?
Follow Devin on Twitter: @DevinMyles11
FRESH TAKE is an initiative to identify, feature and develop talented rugby writers who are not yet part of the mainstream media. If that sounds like you, send us a sample of a story you’d like to write to email@example.com