SAINT DENIS, PARIS – The introduction from the bench of Springbok lock RG Snyman could hold the key to unlocking the Irish defence in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash here at the Stade de France.
The Springboks selection of a 7-1 split on the bench has been the huge talking point all week long in the buildup to Saturday’s top-of-the-table Pool B encounter with the world’s number one ranked side.
Critics of this tactic or innovation believe the Springboks’ brains-trust of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber are taking a massive risk in choosing only one back line player, Cobus Reinach, among their eight substitutes.
Reinach is a specialist scrumhalf covering wing, with Faf de Klerk earmarked to move to flyhalf if the need arises.
Everyone is looking to the highly versatile Kwagga Smith as the obvious forward to cover one of the other positions in the backline in the event of another injury to one of the backs in the starting line-up.
Smith is a brilliant all-round rugby player with his pace and skillset as a former Sevens player. He has the ability to strip the ball in contact and can be an absolute menace at the breakdown and is therefore the ideal impact player to be introduced in the backline if necessary.
And with the exceptional poaching abilities of Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden – who can cover both loose forward and hooker – the Boks seems to have all their bases covered in what is going to be an epic battle at the breakdown.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said at the team hotel on Thursday the side which gets the upper hand at the breakdowns, will most likely be the winner on the day.
So, introducing players like Smith and Van Staden in the second half will help to keep the experienced Irish combination of Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and eighthman Caelan Doris in check by preventing the Irish from getting quick ball at the breakdowns.
However, besides the introduction of a new front row of Ox Nche, Fourie and Trevor Nyakane, the Boks’ biggest detonator of the so-called ‘bomb squad’ that has now morphed into the ‘nuke squad’ with the unprecedented 7-1 split – is the role that the gigantic lock RG Snyman will play when making his appearance from the bench.
Both Snyman and his former Munster locking partner Jean Kleyn (dubbed the Munster Monsters while playing in Ireland), will be introduced in tandem in the second half.
Don’t be surprised to see Snyman popping up at inside centre from phase play or even looming large like the Eiffel Tower somewhere in the backline from set play.
The 2.06 metre giant has already shown how devastating he can be with ball in hand by keeping a few defenders busy when in possession.
He has this unique ability to offload in the tackle that will put the former All Black offload king Sonny Bill Williams to shame.
The former Bulls lock has the uncanny ability to offload in the tackle that will put the former All Black offload king Sonny Bill Williams to shame.
With his long arms holding the ball in one hand and with playmakers with serious stepping abilities like Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Manie Libbok running off him, he has the ability to create havoc in any defensive system.
Expect Erasmus and Nienaber, who have developed a reputation for delivering a box of new tricks, to use Snyman at some stage in the game in a pre-planned move that will cause the Irish a spot of bother to say the least.
Whether it’s from out amongst the backs or from a set line-out peel around the front, one thing is for sure an intricate move involving Snyman (the Mohawk Power Ranger) is on the cards.
Applying this innovative option will prove that the 7-1 split is not only about pulverizing the opposition into submission with the Boks power play up front in the set pieces, but it can also showcase the full skillset of what the ‘nuke squad’ bench has to offer.