Springbok fans yearning for the development of the side’s depth at scrumhalf on the current tour to Europe better shelve their hopes.
Former international halfback Werner Swanepoel believes national coach Rassie Erasmus has no choice but to immediately push Faf de Klerk back into action for Saturday’s Test against France in Paris.
“The Boks undoubtedly want a situation where their scrumhalves are essentially interchangeable and equally classy. Just look at the All Blacks with Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara,” the 45-year-old, who played 20 Tests between 1997 and 2000, said.
“But we’re simply not there yet. The problem is that the gap between Faf, who’s the undisputed first-choice, and the rest is simply too big. To compound the situation, we also know that South African rugby is never easy – it’s always about winning at all costs.
“And that means Rassie is under too much pressure to blood an inexperienced player this weekend, especially after the loss to England.”
Critics will point out that the Boks will never cultivate depth if they don’t start backing rookies, yet Swanepoel doesn’t subscribe to the view that Erasmus is being stubborn.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Rassie doesn’t want to develop his pool of scrumhalves,” he said.
“He might’ve been forced to do so last week, but he did give Ivan van Zyl a fair chance at Twickenham. It’s just that the need for positive results overrides development now.”
A view has been expressed since the Twickenham debacle that 21-year-old Embrose Papier could’ve been thrown into the deep end this weekend, particularly given how well he distributed as a replacement in London.
“Embrose is an interesting player. His service is very snappy and probably on par with Faf’s,” said Swanepoel.
“But we’ve also seen that the kicking game is important in the Northern Hemisphere and that might be something Embrose still has to work on.
“It’s a complicated situation to be in.”