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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Mpilo Gumede has potential to be a Springbok, says former mentor at Sharks

'I honestly think he can play for South Africa; he has got it all. It’s about receiving a sustained opportunity.'

Former Springbok prop Etienne Fynn has backed Bulls loose forward Mpilo Gumede to play for the Springboks, saying he has everything in his locker to make it in Test rugby.

Gumede has been one of the revelations in this season’s United Rugby Championship and European rugby competitions, combining well with his fellow loose forwards at the Bulls, which has helped them climb up the URC points table.

The 23-year-old has won a place in the 43-member Springboks alignment squad for a camp in Cape Town next month, with new coach Rassie Erasmus getting things in place ahead of the new international rugby season.

‘Athletic ability’

Fynn, who worked with Gumede in the Sharks academy and gave him his big break in the Currie Cup as coach of the Sharks, opened up about what made the loose forward a special prospect as a youngster.

“He had everything: the athletic ability, the soft skills … but what he lacked at times was self-belief.

“That is different with different people; it’s not about the colour of your skin or where you’re from, it’s just that different people mature differently at different times,” Fynn said.

To build his confidence, Fynn said the coaches at the Sharks encouraged Gumede to back himself and his talents instead of pigeonholing him as a development player.

“With Mpilo, I didn’t see him responding to the square box, hard knocks environment; he just needed his skill set to be identified, accepted, and be allowed to grow,” said Fynn.

“Mpilo is a player whose skill set is complete; he can carry, he can distribute, he can catch. He has a full skill set, so you can’t pigeonhole him.”

Move to the Bulls

At the Bulls, Gumede has come of age. Fynn believes that leaving his comfort zone in Kwa-Zulu Natal has allowed him to flourish.

“The move to the Bulls has been excellent for Mpilo. It has allowed him to bloom and find himself,” said Fynn.

“He’s a KZN man, and being away has allowed him to find his identity. It’s certainly been a great move for his rugby … he’s playing superb rugby. The Bulls system and Jake White have done well; he deserves the credit.”

Fynn is confident Gumede can be part of the Boks in future if given a proper opportunity to show what he can do.

“I honestly think he can play for South Africa; he has got it all,” Fynn said.

“It’s about receiving a sustained opportunity to show his worth … having one or two chances is not a sustained opportunity.

“The Boks must give him a go and let’s see what he can do. He, however, also has to take the opportunity when it comes.”

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Bulls Rugby Team Springboks (Bokke/Boks)

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