Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Will Canan Moodie join the growing ranks of Springbok utility backs?

Moodie made the move up to international level seamlessly, scoring a scintillating try on debut against Australia.

It seems like the sky is the limit for Springbok breakout star Canan Moodie, with all indications pointing towards him becoming a valuable utility back, in the mould of Damian Willemse and Frans Steyn.

The Boks put a premium on their utility backs, often selecting players that cover multiple positions in the back line, due to them usually going with the bomb squad of six forwards to two backline players on the bench.

This gives guys like Willemse, Steyn and Willie le Roux a big leg up when battling for spots on the bench, with them often getting picked ahead of other players due to their usefulness across the back.

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At just 19-years-old Moodie has taken his Bok opportunity with aplomb, which was brought about after an injury to Cheslin Kolbe and suspension to Kurt-Lee Arendse, which allowed Moodie to start in the Boks last three games of the Rugby Championship on the right wing.

Despite being so young and having just played in one professional season of club rugby for the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship, Moodie made the move up to international level seamlessly, and even scored a scintillating try on debut against Australia.

Over last season’s URC campaign with the Bulls, Moodie operated largely on the right wing and at fullback, proving especially adept in those positions.

Backline versatility

However, he also featured at outside centre, which is a position he has played in before, and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber believes he has all the attributes to thrive there as well.

“Canan played 13 against the Sharks in the URC and he played 13 for the Bulls at U20 level. So he is a really talented player and what has struck me most about him is his coach ability,” explained Nienaber.

“He is a guy that consumes teachings, doesn’t get flustered with information, and he is quite a level headed bloke.

“I don’t think a lot of people play Test matches at 19, and he does, so there is definitely something special about him. He has to continue to work hard and grow, as he is still in the beginning phase of his career.”

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Nienaber continued: “I believe there is versatile aspect to his game and he can play different positions. But for us let’s get him to settle into one position. Test match rugby is tough, and he is just getting the hang of playing 14 now.

“He will also have to fight for his place when a guy like Cheslin comes back and Kurt-Lee is also operating there. It was Kurt-Lee’s suspension that gave Canan the opportunity (at 14) and hats off to him because he took it with both hands.”

It would be good for the Boks to get another utility player that covers 13, as their current utility cover for that position is Jesse Kriel, who is solid, but does not have the x-factor of first choice Lukhanyo Am, whereas Moodie definitely has some x-factor himself.

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Canan Moodie Springboks (Bokke/Boks)