Hey Rassie, remember Ruan?

Devin Hermanus

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

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- Devin Hermanus

Let's chat

  • Barry Smith

    It is firstly a question of who will play Full Back? Erasmus opted for the two inexperienced wings on the basis that he had Le Roux to marshal the back three, but he is unlikely to go into a test with three relatively inexperienced players at the back if, for example, Bosch or Galant are selected at 15 in the absence of Le Roux!
    Whilst fully accepting Ruan’s claim, I would not write off Mapimpi’s inclussion in the the squad. He did well against Wales and selections at the Sharks have often been less than fair this year- some played into the ground whilst other totally overlooked!

  • Nick

    I guess combrink’s most obvious challenge is his ball handling. In every game he plays he makes at least one significant handling error.

  • Herman Schroder?

    Take out the almost indecent haste of Rassie to ‘transform’ the Boks then the inclusion of Combrink should be a no brainer in any normal selection scenario. Apart from his physical presence he has a great line kick and who will ever forget his penalty from the halfway line to beat the Sharks a year or so back. Couple that with his rugby nous and skill levels and you have the complete winger and don’t forget he is a very accomplished full back. Add to that his experience of playing in finals rugby unlike any of the other contenders who have been playing in teams with no consistency or workable game plans and barely making the playoffs in a competition where more than half the teams qualify for the playoffs. Example this weekend where the Crusaders unceremoniously put the Sharks to the sword.

    The criticism of the Lions players in the Coetzee era is of course totally unwarranted. Nobody played to their abilities over that period thanks to the coaching challenged Toetie and his failed game plan. Singling out the Lions players is again a case of looking for convenient scape goats to plaster over the cracks in SA rugby with a touch of envy from those who still embrace the failed conservative game plan of yesteryear. Even some leading scribes on these forums have been guilty of it in fact.

    If anyone can tell me that ‘waltzing matilda’ tackler Curwin Bosch is a better fullback than Andries Coetzee then they really are deluded. Bosch looks flash with his occasional darts but once in the gap has no idea when to offload timeously and to the correct supporting player. Mind you playing in the Sharks stunted game plan does not help his cause. In any case his tackling ability is woeful and not up to international standard.

    There are more Lions players who should be picked ahead of some of these recent ‘accelerated’ Boks imo. Elton, Skosan, Ruan JV Rensburg, Cronje, Brink, Dreyer and even Van Rooyen should be seriously considered. They have unfairly been tarred with the Coetzee brush yet have no problem matching the NZ teams and playing winning rugby along the way consistently over three years. They also have the experience of playoff and finals matches which has put them well ahead of the other inconsistent non achieving other Franchises. In other words they have the right stuff.

    In fact the Lions who have been flying under the radar this season but now are ready to perform the perfect trifecta. Yesterday they put away the Argentinian national team at full strength with a try or three to spare. Next Saturday they take on a virtual Aussie national team in the Waratahs. Win that then it’s either the Crusaders or the Hurricanes both of whom are stacked and packed with AB’s. Win that then Rassie will really have to do some head scratching. But then again it all depends on his preferred game plan. If as I suspect it will be dom krag ( yes it’s still lurking in our rugby ) then by all means pick those best equipped to play it but be prepared to remain in the doldrums at No. 7 in the world rankings or worse.

    Yes I’m sure there are those who will criticize my opinions and almost blinkered approach to the Lions cause and I accept that but for too long we have been burdened by the other Franchises not performing in SR. Their squads now boast ten to thirteen Springboks in their line ups while the bulk of the real performers have been sidelined. Not surprisingly they are all seeking greener and fairer pastures to continue their careers.

    Are the Lions being sacrificed to meet ‘transformation’ targets perhaps ?? To any fair minded person this would appear to be the case and our rugby is all the poorer for it. We can paper over as many cracks as we like but the bottom line it must be merit selection or nothing in my books. It’s unfair to those sidelined as it is to those who get elevated beyond their capabilities be they ‘white’ or ‘black’. Rassie has promised his benefactors that he will transform no matter what let’s just hope he is not putting the final nail in the coffin of SA rugby. The next six tests should be telling and let’s hope Rassie will take full responsibility for it. A divided house cannot stand.

    • Greg Shark

      your comments always bring on a good laugh….

      • Herman Schroder?

        Ya Greg but how do you really feel ? Tired, listless, demoralized, can’t sleep, crying out for help but no ones listening etc. Woe is me I’m a Sharks supporter, what a burden. Cheers.

      • Barry Smith

        Cryptic, brief and to the point? Lol.

  • Nick

    Herman…….’Physical presence’, ‘great line kick’ (let’s just forget how many of them miss touch, or go anywhere, ) are those not the perfect attributes of a ‘domkrag’ wing? Not his fault, but he goes by the name of ‘punisher’….The ‘domkrag’ term you love as I understand you refers to power with no brains? ‘Skopje end donder’ stuff…….

    Now I’m a lions and combrink fan, but you seem to emphasise the less than subtle attributes of ruan as a player. I also think we have a good pool of players to choose from in the wing position. I think he may still get selected if he demonstrates more skill.

    I just get the feeling if ruan had another coloured shirt on you may see his ability differently.

    The ‘rugby nuus and skill’ bit you describe is less than obvious to me as a regular viewer of lions games. I recon rassie would pick him if he demonstrated this nuus and skill on the field more consistently.

    Do you really believe their is a ‘plot’ against the lions players? I’m trying to understand how rassie’s assistant, Mr DuBruin conspire to leave lions players out? Rassie must really rate the lions to bring the coach on board.

    Always good to chat to a fellow lions fan.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Nick, I don’t think history agrees with you my friend. Coetzee ruined every Bok in his team over his two year rein and the Lions are continually singled out as being responsible. As I said in a previous post Rassie has gone out of his way to ‘transform’ SA rugby and the Lions players have been the scapegoats again. You must be able to see a pattern here. The three failed Franchises have upwards of 40 ‘Springboks’ on the park and you mean to tell me they are all genuine Bok quality. And here I’m not talking ‘colour’, it applies to everyone where appllcable.

      The Lions boast more success than any other team, have players who have played in the white hot furnace of playoff and finals rugby a few times and most have experience at test level albeit under the incompetent Alistair Coetzee. But Bok caps are handed out willy nilly to satisfy some ‘transformation’ goals that Rassie promised his benefactors to get the job. Maybe the ‘elephant in the room’ either escapes or is conveniently ignored by some but don’t count me among them. You can support the Lions in whichever way you see fit and I respect that but I choose my own course and if it upsets some with the inconvenient truth then so be it.

      As for De Bruin. Well Rassie is the chief honcho and like most coach’s will spell out the game plan and selections. De Bruin is in fact caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in this case. How can he promote his players without appearing biased ? A tough one i know.

      So let’s look forward to Saturday and hopefully another last step to the final. I’d love to see what Rassie would do if the Lions bring the cup home and he has to revisit his selections. We are in for some really interesting times. Cheers my friend.

      • minging

        I’m a Sharks fan and I would take Combrink over all their wings for the Boks. Going to be interesting to see how he goes this weekend against the huge back three of the Tah’s…

  • Nick

    Apologies for the typo’s and lack of brevity.

  • Wesley

    Simple enough, if you want consistancy in the Bok team, play combinations. Now i wouldnt want Sbu out if he was available, i rate him massively, but now with Commies in and Sbu out you have a potential Lions winger combo, and with Willie at 15 could be a treat. I have been saying for long now, make it a Am and Esterhuizen midfield, they were great this year. The backline is critical in getting combos and playing styles not to vary too much and compliment each other. Pollard and Faf seems to be working well and having Elton to open up things when it gets loose (please rate him fairly, for once). Mapimpi is damn good but more an 11 and Dyantyi got that jersey tied up. Play him on bench then. Get rid of DDA and Kriel… Voster a much better option. But we all know DDA some kind of golden boy to these selectors and Kriel still riding on some kind of wave from years back for some reason. Those are the players there should be questions about. Not Commies.

    • Rant Kingsley

      Nicely put, Wesley. Agree on combinations and certainly, the ones you mention are top class. Imagine some of them with good coaching (i.e. the Sharks guys).

      I even agree with you on Elton. It is no secret I am not a fan, but I always admit that if he sorts his mind out he could be the best 10 in the world. He has the skill, vision and fantastic management. But only when his mind is right. If he loses his mind he loses his game.

      But yeah, we have some amazingly talented players, and there is no reason why we can’t become the best team in the world. I mean the Lions and even Sharks have been dominating Kiwi’s this year, well apart from the Crusaders.

  • Chase

    How are there still people watching rugby that continue to back Elton for a test match? Rassie has lost faith in him, Damian Willemse will be in the mix during the RC, which in simpler terms means Elton’s international career is finished, same as the people saying Andries Coetzee should get another opportunity, it’s only Lions supporters that want shit players in the Book team just because they play well at club level, the only players that are test worthy in that Lions team are Marx, Mostert and Dyantyi, Warren Whiteley is a great leader and a good player, but a Springbok 8 always needs to be in the mould of a Duane Vermeulen.

    • Peter Witlow

      Is there a reason why people do not rate Dillon Leyds?

  • Rant Kingsley

    There are several potential wing stars amongst the various teams. Combrinck is quality and can certainly add value with his bulk and kicking qualities, not to mention playing a second fullback on the wing is the route NZ took several years ago to ensure they beat us in the kicking game.

    I personally think we should have Combrinck, Mapimpi, Dyantyi, and Nkosi as our wingers for the next 2 world cups. If you take each position and ensure you have enough quality for transformation, then there will be no issues on that front. And those four mentioned are potentially some of the deadliest wingers in the world.

    There were some comments on the form of Mapimpi but let’s not forget how amazing he was at the Cheetahs, who are excellent at the expansive, creative game. And with Swys De Bruin the attack coach at the Boks you can bet your bottom dollar that things are going to get far more exciting and the wingers more chance to show their ability. And we know that Combrinck is very much a player the likes of those pacific islanders: big, strong and fast (makes me think of Rohan JVR as well)

    Heres to hoping that we can once again be the mighty Boks, with teams fearing us, but this time for our awesome attacking prowess.

  • Wesley

    Even so Chase, would you not be pressed to perhaps substitute Notshe with Brink? Or what about Marvin Orie? Voster being much more effective than supposed goldenboy DDA… Look at the stats. Elton is first on attacking stats compared to other flyhalves but plays fair second fiddle to Pollard because of game management. In what world does Willemse warrant selection in terms of what he has brought either his union or otherwise over a 25plus capped player for the Boks? On what basis are you saying these Lions players are shit? Combrink making a comeback makes sense. Leadership quality and skill level, Whiteley makes sense. Please base your argument on facts.

  • John Comyn

    Depends what Rassie is looking for. If it’s out and out pace then neither Combrink or Pietersen are the answer. Both Combrink and JP have good all-round games and are a safer option. They defend well, they read the game well and they kick well. I would go with Combrink. He’s coming back into form and is hungrier than JP to play in the green & gold.

  • SweetAz

    Find a winger faster and bigger than Rieko Ioanne,—or prepare to leak tries against him in every match. All of the mentioned players are simply stopgaps until Ray Mordt or someone similar gets resurrected.

    • minging

      May as well select Lourens Erasmus… 8.5 sec for his fastest Supr Rugby try for the Lions from kick-off.

  • Nick

    Thanks for the wide and detailed reply Herman Shcroder. What part of history are you referring to?

    • Herman Schroder?

      Hi Nick, I was referring to the Coetzee years. In that period, when chosen, Combrink was one of the few who rose above the mediocre and is generally considered a very skilled player with other attributes ie kicking that the current crop of flashy wings do not possess imo. In test matches those attributes are even more important so picking him is a no braner.

      Well let’s all now focus on the job at hand and Saturday’s big one. I just have a feeling this is the year of the Lion. Cheers.

  • Nick

    That’s fair enough. Toetie just about ruined the form of all of the players he picked. Not fair to judge any of them too harshly. Agree.
    Still think his more recent games for the lions since his return from injury have not been great.

    Let’s hope he’s coming into form and he’s part of a lions victory on Saturday. Will be hoping the crusaders lose on Saturday too and help the lions to keep playing at Ellis park.

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