CAPE TOWN – Looking at the teams alone, South Africans have every reason to get excited about the Springbok Showdown on Saturday (5pm kick-off).
Both the Green team and the Gold team feature talent and X-factor in abundance, while there is also some solid Test-match experience in the mix for the Newlands spectacle.
But while we can certainly expect an entertaining encounter, Green team coach Mzwandile Stick yesterday made it clear that this game – which can be seen as a kind of national “trials” for those wanting to fall onto the Bok radar – needs to be respected.
It’s not just going to be a run-out to pique the interest of rugby-starved South Africans again just before the domestic season after six months of no rugby. It’s not just to get the players’ blood flowing again. It’s also a real chance for players to stake their claim that much both Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have relayed.
And it’s something Stick also highlighted yesterday.
“We would like to give the players the freedom to express themselves, and to showcase their talent and bring that X-factor,” Stick said of the fixture.
“If you look at the likes of Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, they use their chances one-on-one, and we would like to give these young players the opportunity to do that. With the experienced players around them, I think it will be a good match.
“The game might open up in the later stages, but we are going to respect this match. The Gold team also has quality players, so we will try to play a well-balanced game. If it opens up, we will look to take our opportunities.”
Stick made three changes to his matchday squad for the clash with Oupa Mohoje (utility forward) having tested positive for Covid-19, while front-ranker Trevor Nyakane was also withdrawn from the squad as a precautionary measure after being in close contact with his former Cheetahs teammate.
Former Junior Springbok utility back Mnombo Zwelendaba was also ruled out due to a hip injury.
These gaps see three young guns called into the Springbok Green team – Kwenzo Blose (prop), Kade Wolhuter (flyhalf) and JJ van der Mescht (lock). All three players have been named on the bench.
Siya Kolisi and Lukhanyo Am have been named as the respective captains of the sides and will lead two sides consisting of World Cup-winners, Test internationals and up-and-coming players. Whichever category they fall into, every player will have something to gain from this match.
The Junior Boks and general new blood will want to use this as a proper platform, those who’d see this as a chance to have their names be heard again, and maybe even those who haven’t got enough of a look-in until now who will be eager to show they should have been seen …
This game will be more than just a rugby welcoming, it will be an opportunity.