Trevor fit for tighthead Test

Simnikiwe Xabanisa

The best thing about a 43-man Springbok squad is that it can cover all manner of sins as pretty much every man and his dog has a fair to middling chance of making it.

New Bok coach Johan “Rassie” Erasmus’ first squad was no different because – apart from a few grumbles from Johannesburg about the omission of Ruan Combrinck, Ross Cronje, Andries Coetzee et al – most people were satisfied with the selected team.

But the first matchday 23, regardless whether it’s for a glorified friendly against Wales in Washington DC, always invites more scrutiny and speculation. Simply put, the moment Erasmus named the team to play Wales on Saturday the rest of us got to work on his team for the first Test against England next weekend.

And one of the curious names to emerge as one of those presumably being wrapped in cotton wool for the opening game of the three-Test series was Bulls tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane, what with fellow tighties Wilco Louw, Thomas du Toit and Frans Malherbe all having gone to the White House.

Given his past as a loosehead prop, strictly speaking one shouldn’t call Nyakane a tighthead prop lest it offends one of the contributors on these pages, a man who goes by the moniker of an army vehicle. Swing prop is apparently the acceptable term.

But Nyakane has played most of his rugby on the right side of the scrum this year and is the only tighthead left at home. Which begs the question: has he gone from being ridiculed as a failed experiment last year to the man hogging the spotlight for his scrummaging and not his dancing?

You have to remember that just four months ago Nyakane couldn’t make the Bulls Super Rugby squad, let alone the starting line-up, because he wasn’t meeting John Mitchell’s stringent conditioning standards at practice.

So how did he end up as potentially the rock upon which the Boks hope to build dominance? The most obvious answer to that is his conditioning.

Not only does he seem stronger at scrum time, having the fitness to shift that considerable weight around the paddock has also freed him up to showcase skills which had been rendered dormant by his lack of mobility: a good defence, exceptional work over the ball and the kind of handling, passing and awareness of space which prove that he did play centre as a youngster.

It has also been to Nyakane’s benefit that his partnerships with Lizo Gqoboka, Pierre Schoeman and Adriaan Strauss in the Bulls front row have unhinged a lot of reputations in Super Rugby. Most importantly for Nyakane, whatever the Bulls front-row permutations were throughout the season, he was the lone constant on the tighthead side the moment he regained his starting XV spot.

A big part of Nyakane’s struggles, particularly at Bok level, were how little game time he got – he’s started just two of 36 Test matches, at loosehead prop – and the fact that he kept on being played to make up the numbers despite being badly conditioned and out of form.

The latter was particularly unfair on him because he has always been talented (ask his old scrum coach at the Cheetahs, Os du Randt) and the only thing that was lacking was application to go with said ability, which seems to have been resolved by the penny finally dropping now that he’s 29.

If Nyakane does start against England, there will be an element of luck because many would have expected the Stormers’ Wilco Louw to be ahead of him on the pecking order as the incumbent, however few caps he boasts.

But the Stormers, in Malherbe’s injury-enforced absence, seem to have abused Louw’s strength and durability by playing him into the ground during the Super Rugby season. While Nyakane may not be as strong a scrummager as Louw, he has the better all-round game.

- Simnikiwe Xabanisa

Let's chat

  • Wesley

    I was always hoping for Wilco to start, but there are so many truths spoken here, especially the last line with the Stormers pack putting all hope on him to play and play well, the fresher start and deserved spot is for Trevor. Wilco being such a beast of a man (no disrespect Tendai), one could only wonder why he would not be played. But now I starting to think, why should we rest any further on the man’s shoulders as the Stormers have done, and let Trevor have a good go for once. The man has done everything right this season, and actually has never in his 36 caps in green done horribly as well, even though most of it was no more 20 minute stints at a time… Give him a full 60 atleast

  • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

    “Strictly speaking one shouldn’t call Nyakane a tighthead prop lest it offends one of the contributors on these pages, a man who goes by the moniker of an army vehicle. Swing prop is apparently the acceptable term.”

    Hah – Nice one Sim. Still not 100% convinced, and I still see no reason for the so called “Swinger” in today’s 23 man, full front row on the bench, squads. But you are 100% correct that he has been a whole lot better this year, and is thus also contributing round the park – something the coaches love about him.

    Just not sure the name Trevor Nyakane will be sending shivers down the spine of his potential opponent, Joe Marler. And if I were Eddy, I would definitely be asking Joe to “Take a dip”

    • hopeful

      I am a big Fan of trevor and agree his name may not send shivers down the spine of Marler or Eddie….suffice to say he isn’t a formidable figure or tighthead specialist….but he isn’t a fairy and he’s tough and strong!!

      Trevor has however shown his ability to move around the park, steal ball, tackle and improved his scrummaging ability….I would think his consideration would be based on all round capability and seniority….

      Wilco is a big unit with serious talent….I just wish someone would tell him to be more aggressive…..just a little more in your face and throwing his Bulk around….Pierre Schoeman would be a good example of a rampaging bull….

      What is good to see is T- Du Toit, Trevor, Wilco, Beast, and Gqoboka all improving and shown growth….

      Coenie – Will be back
      Koch – Raring to go
      Schoeman – Overlooked but can’t be for long, needs to improve scrummaging

      • Deanoo

        He won’t be facing Marler he will be up against Mako Vunipola. Similar to Trevor not a “Beast” in the scrum but “the best prop in the world” around the park according to Brad Barritt. Wilco Louw will be up against Marler in the last 20 a good battle in the tight, if Mako goes off!!

      • hopeful

        Hell Marcel Van Der Merwe is also a great option..

  • Dean

    I think Rassie has been smart in some of his choices, to a degree. He will definitely find the answers to some begging questions. Firstly, is Nyakane good enough to start more Test matches at tighthead for the Springboks. Secondly, are Kolisi and PS du Toit capable of being future, permanent captains. Is Bosch ready for Test rugby yet. Can de Allende bring his form from Super Rugby to international level. How will the debutant wings cope across both matches. We may also find out who our best backup hooker is behind Marx. We will know all the answers to these questions in the coming weeks. Exciting times though for SA rugby.

    • hopeful

      Very positive way of seeing things….and let’s hope that should a player be successful or exposed they are rewarded or sent packing…..

      Vunipola vs Nyakane – This is a brilliant head to head battle….very similar players….Vunipola being a standout forward for England shows just how prominent Nyakane could be….

  • Redge

    Kits and Louw should start on MERIT against England with Beast and Malherbe on the bench but we are not allow to select on merit do they won’t start

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