The first time I ever saw Warrick Gelant in action was in 2013 when he scored four tries for Outeniqua against my northern suburbs backs.
Playing inside centre on the day, Gelant utterly outshone everyone on the park and that’s notable considering he was in a backline that included future stars such as Dewald Human (Blitzboks), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh), Remu Malan (Maties) and Leighton Eksteen (SWD Eagles).
If he didn’t go over an opponent he went round them. It was a sight to behold. After the match I found out that the kid, nicknamed ‘Boogie’, had already been snapped up by the Blue Bulls. I bookmarked the date and wondered how many years it would be before Boogie made his Test debut.
Gelant’s got game. More than most players in the Republic, and he’ll probably end up scoring heaps of tries for South Africa.
Thing is, he doesn’t have the No.15 jersey pinned down just yet. Of all Rassie Erasmus’ selection conundrums, I think fullback is the one position causing him more sleepless nights than he’d care to admit.
The reason? Top Test teams don’t just have one recognised tactical kicker in their starting lineup and, looking at current form, this is a real concern for the Boks.
Remember the Irish pinning Allister Coetzee’s Boks in the right hand corner for two Tests when Elton Jantjies was the only player who could clear effectively? Don’t rule out a repeat, especially in the back three where a trio of Gelant, Sbu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyanti might run people to pieces, but would probably struggle to bring any relief with the boot in a pressure situation.
At the moment, Ruan Combrinck and Dillyn Leyds aren’t convincing kicking options on the wing and, unless it’s been decided that Handre Pollard will be a stop-gap at No.12, ala Owen Farrell, or that Frans Steyn is ready to play 80 minutes of Test rugby, having Gelant as your back-up kicker in the run-on side isn’t ideal.
Boogie averages fewer metres per kick than Sharks rival Curwin Bosch and Bok incumbent Andries Coetzee.
And with Bosch also averaging more metres-per-carry than Gelant, some might say the answer is as simple as booting Gelant and letting Bosch run things from the back.
While that argument has merit, it’s in the offloading and passing stats where Gelant shows his creative worth. He’s made more offloads and passes than Bosch. Gelant is also the safer option on defence, missing only four of 29 attempted tackles this season.
Another player at Erasmus’ disposal is Willie le Roux. With 21 try-assists he has seven more than the next-best contender in the Aviva Premiership, and he has an educated boot. I recall Percy Montgomery being an inspired pick at 15 for Jake White’s Boks after a stint with the Newport Dragons in the mid-noughties. Maybe Willie could be similarly inspiring in 2018?
Or perhaps Erasmus has an ace up his sleeve, one which could see Gelant and his dangerous feet deputise at right wing until he improves his kicking.
This could mean a back three with both Gelant and Bosch, a partnership with wonderful potential.
Either way, a back three of either Nkosi or Dyanti on the left wing, Gelant on the right and either Le Roux or Bosch at the back offers a well-balanced kicking game that will take some of the pressure off whoever starts at 10.
And Bok fans will still get a chance to see one of SA’s most potent attacking weapons boogie.
Follow Dawie on Twitter: @dawiboon
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