There are pros and cons around handing RG Snyman the Springboks’ No.5 jersey – it’s not as straightforward as it may seem, writes Ashfak Mohamed.
Cape Town – The way RG Snyman pulled Malcolm Marx’s jersey after he scored the Springboks’ opening try against the All Blacks was exactly the sort of spark that the visitors needed in Auckland.
The South Africans had endured a lacklustre first half at Mount Smart Stadium, with the tight-five not able to match the fire of the Loftus Versfeld performance against the Wallabies a week earlier.
While it was understandable that captain-on-the-day Eben Etzebeth wasn’t firing on all cylinders following the death of his father Harry during the week, Lood de Jager wasn’t his energetic self either, and they lagged behind the efforts of Jean Kleyn and Marvin Orie in Pretoria.
The 30-year-old, who plays for Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, was dependable as a ball-carrier and tackler, but did produce his usual high work-rate in broken play, while the Boks also lost a few lineouts to All Black locks Scott Barrett and Brodie Retallick.
So, ‘Bomb Squad’ stalwart Snyman was a much-needed arrival in the 43rd minute in Auckland, along with Marx, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen in quick succession, and they have the Boks a physical edge and athleticism that was lacking in the first half.
But does that now mean that Snyman should replace De Jager as the first-choice Bok No.5 in the big games going forward?
It would certainly be worth the experiment in the next Test against Argentina at Ellis Park on July 29, as he needs the game-time as well, having made a triumphant return to regular rugby in Munster’s United Rugby Championship title-winning run.
The 28-year-old former Bulls giant played his first Test since the 2019 World Cup final in the Wallaby encounter at Loftus, and must get used to the grind of starting an international match, as it’s very different to coming on for the last half-an-hour when some of the opposition forwards are tired.
For a man-mountain standing 2.06m and 117kg, Snyman’s skills-set is off the charts. He was again at it in Auckland, injecting some pace into the Bok attack with a couple of incisive runs, and pulling off some eye-catching offloads in the tackle.
Isn’t that when he is at his best, when things are a bit loose and he is able to bring something different to the Bok pack? Would he have the same effect if he were to start alongside Etzebeth in the World Cup pool game against Ireland, or a possible quarter-final against France or the All Blacks?
Such a scenario also depends on who the opponents are. Snyman has the dexterity and physicality to keep going for 80 minutes against a New Zealand squad who have a similar second-rower in Brodie Retallick, who is equally comfortable playing as an enforcer-type No.4 lock or a lineout-jumping, ‘extra centre’ No.5.
But dealing with a heavy French or English pack – or even a fully-primed Wallaby unit including Will Skelton and one of the Arnold brothers – might suit the more traditional, direct No.5 such as De Jager.
There is no doubt about the qualities of the latter. Perhaps he was short of a gallop in Auckland, as he plays in Japan, where the club season ended a few months ago already.
De Jager is a world-class operator at his best, which saw him force his way into the 2019 starting line-up ahead of Franco Mostert during the World Cup itself.
So, he can be expected to build momentum over the next few Tests before the tournament opener against Scotland on September 10.
Snyman is good enough to be a starter, but then the Boks would miss his impact off the bench, which none of the other SA second-rowers can match as a substitute.
So, there are pros and cons around handing Snyman the No.5 jersey, and it’s not as straightforward as it may seem.