Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has philosophically accepted that his scrumhalf resources will be severely tested.
The influential Faf de Klerk won’t be available at all due to club commitments, while the steady Ross Cronje is injured.
As a result, Erasmus will be forced to choose between Ivan van Zyl, Embrose Papier and Louis Schreuder to partner Handre Pollard at halfback.
“We’re going to be put under pressure in terms of results, but we’ll see some other players in action,” said the Bok mentor.
“We’re thin. We’re just in one of those cycles where we have inexperienced scrumhalves. But Embrose and Ivan have been in our system since the beginning of the season. It’s not like they’ll have to learn from scratch, but the pressure will be on.”
The question remains: who’s the best fit to take on the Roses at Twickenham on Saturday?
He was the official backup No 9 for the majority of the Rugby Championship, but it would appear that De Klerk’s monopoly on the position meant Papier was truly only selected to gain experience. He didn’t start any of his remaining games for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup.
Plus: He’s experienced the Boks’ improvement first-hand, is familiar with Erasmus’ system and provides arguably the most unique attacking dimension of the three scrumhalves. Snappy service too.
Minus: Could he handle the inherent pressure that arises from playing at Twickenham. His general play is untested in slower European conditions.
IVAN VAN ZYL
Former Bulls mentor John Mitchell rated the 23-year-old highly, praising him particularly for his defensive organisation. The Currie Cup has shown a different side of Van Zyl, who ditched his steadiness to an extent to play more attackingly. It suggests he’s arguably the most balanced exponent in the group.
Plus: His defence could be a vital asset and he’s played at Super Rugby level with Pollard, an important consideration.
Minus: His kicking game is sometimes more reflex than considered. Tends to be suspicious of his own attacking ability.
The Sharks captain performed admirably in the Currie Cup, but one has to be honest: he wouldn’t have been here had it not been for injuries and unavailability. Ironically, however, he’s the most experienced player among the No 9 candidates.
Plus: Stability is synonymous with Schreuder. He’s the “safety first” option … and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this situation.
Minus: Except for a week or two in the camp, he’s not quite up to scratch with the Boks’ system. Perhaps lack dynamism for a top-class halfback.