When the BBC Sports commentator at Murrayfield described RG Snyman as an “enormous creature”, Twitter was abuzz with comments. It not only spoke to Snyman’s hulking physique, but also of his growing influence in the Bok jersey over the course of the 2018 season.
The towering lock produced another accomplished performance during 60 minutes against Scotland last Saturday in what was his 11th Test, this after having made an impact off the bench in the victory against France in Paris. It was the 23-year-old’s first start for the Boks since the June series against England and we were reminded that, in the absence of Eben Etzebeth, he is an able replacement, and perhaps a challenger for the No4 jersey.
Etzebeth has been the unrivalled first choice enforcer for the Springboks since his debut season in 2012. Many have tried to supplant the 2.04m and 118kg second row forward, but to no avail as he has consistently been one of the best locks in the world during that period. But the Stormers powerhouse has missed most of this season through injury and has looked rusty on his return, far from his lofty standards.
Snyman offers something different to Etzebeth’s all-power game. While he is no slouch in the trenches, it is his all-round play that has seen him do well for the Springboks, with superior athleticism ensuring he gets around the park quicker than the Stormers hardman.
Proficient at running off the shoulder of the ball carrier in broken play, there was no better evidence of Snyman’s ability than in the build-up to the Boks’ first try against Scotland. The 2.06m forward received a pass from scrumhalf Embrose Papier and deftly offloaded to Steven Kitshoff, sparking Jesse Kriel’s 12th Test try.
This brings me to the next part of his game that is impressive – RG has good ball skills and as most rugby spectators will attest to, this is one of the aspects that currently sets Brodie Rettalick apart as the finest lock in the world, if not the finest ever.
Snyman’s all-round skills, athleticism and physicality are as close as the Boks can get to fieldinga Rettalick and the prospect of having a player whose game so closely resembles that of the standout All Blacks lock must excite Erasmus as he seeks to elevate the Boks to superpower status again.
It is for this reason that Snyman will not only be an option in Etzebeth’s absence, but – as shown by the team chosen to face Wales in Cardiff – he will soon begin to push the 74-Test veteran for playing time.
Despite the Boks preparing to challenge a Wales outfit that is on an eight-game winning streak, Erasmus has chosen to retain Snyman in the run-on side with battle-hardened Etzebeth on the bench.
With Pieter-Steph du Toit’s steady progress and growth into a blindside flanker, the pathway is open for Snyman to lay challenge to Etzebeth’s status as a mainstay of the Bok pack. He certainly looks the most worthy of the challengers that have come before him.
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