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Nel gets his chance to shine

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Sevens star ready to move up to XV's as Springboks face Wallabies and All Blacks

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Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says it was Ruhan Nel’s form during training which caught Rassie Erasmus’ eye.

The training Stick was referring to happened in the build-up to the Rugby Championship when the Boks took part in opposed training sessions against Western Province in Stellenbosch. 

A few weeks ago, Province coach John Dobson said Nel has what it takes to become a double Springbok (national colours in both Sevens and Fifteens), while the 27-year-old has also said the reason why he decided to commit to Fifteens is to chase his dream of becoming a Bok in that discipline as well.

And if he gets a run against Australia this week or against New Zealand next weekend, it would have been quite a rapid rise for the Sevens star.

Following injuries to centres Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, Nel joined former Province and Stormers prop Vincent Koch and Bulls scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl as newcomers to the Bok squad.

Fullback Willie le Roux – who was initially set to miss the two home games due to club commitments with Wasps – rejoined the Boks last night.

Anybody who’s followed the Currie Cup this season would know Nel’s call-up is a justified one.

He has been in hot form with WP in their unbeaten run, and the fact the domestic competition was his first taste of Fifteens action this season makes his contributions even more impressive.

“He comes from the Sevens system and he has been a big part of the Blitzbok success,” said Stick.

“He has done really well at Sevens over the last couple of the years. It was a bold decision for him to leave Sevens and commit fully to WP and the 15-man game.”

“But we know he has great potential as we trained against him a couple of times (in Stellenbosch before the Rugby Championship). He showed us what he could offer there, and then he carried that through to the Currie Cup.”

“I think it is best for our country when the youngsters are given a chance. We want to turn all the stones in the build-up to the World Cup and evaluate our depth, and giving guys opportunities is what Rassie is doing really well at the moment.”

“When I watch him he reminds me a bit of one of the Bok legends of not that long ago, Marius Joubert.

“He is like Marius in the way that he is sneaky around the field, he has a good eye for space, and neither can you underestimate his work rate around the field.”

Thank

“Of course we have Sevens to thank for that. His selection is a credit to the Sevens system and shows that Rassie doesn’t overlook the Sevens players when he makes his selections.”

Stick also revealed that building depth would continue to be the goal when they host the Wallabies and New Zealand, so it will be interesting to see how Erasmus rolls the dice come the weekend.

Nel can play at both 12 and 13, and Lionel Mapoe rejoining the squad, along with Jesse Kriel, gives the Boks a few option at outside centre, while Andre Esterhuizen and Handre Pollard can play at 12.

S’bu Nkosi’s return to fitness also gives Erasmus an additional option at wing, while Damian Willemse’s anticipated starting run at fullback is a little less certain now seeing that Le Roux is back in the mix, while another former Sevens man, Cheslin Kolbe, is also a No 15 option.