Boks set for depth test in Aphiwe Dyantyi's absence
Aphiwe Dyantyi's hamstring injury would have been enough to cause heart palpitations in a different era.
But while Dyanyi will be missed when the Springboks host Australia in the opening match of the Rugby Championship at Ellis Park on Saturday‚ assistant coach Mzwandile Stick is happy that they have enough cover waiting in the wings.
With Makazole Mapimpi‚ S'busiso Nkosi and Cheslin Kolbe all playing well for their respective Super Rugby and French Top 14 teams‚ a lack of form and fitness is the least of Stick's and to an extent‚ Johan “Rassie” Erasmus's concerns.
Dyantyi is set to miss at least two Tests‚ but having started the majority of last year's games on the left wing‚ the time is ripe for timely re-jig of the back three.
“It's not nice to lose someone like Aphiwe but we trust all the players in our squad.
"We've got a lot of outside back talent in South Africa. Kolbe was doing very well in France while Nkosi is playing well‚” Stick said.
“Makazole is one of the best outside backs in the country and a lethal finisher. It's sad to lose Aphiwe‚ but we're in a good space with our outside backs.”
There's also a possibility of having two Jantjies (Elton and Herschel) on the field should they be picked for Saturday's Rugby Championship opener against Australia.
This is a prospect that had Stick excited as the Boks have to test their depth and new combinations.
“If you talk about combinations‚ then it's something new for them but if you look at the style of the players and how they play‚ they'll complement each other.
"Herschel's got good service and when Elton gets front-foot ball‚ he can destroy teams‚” Stick said.
“That's something that could work if they could get the balance in their strengths. If they get an opportunity this week‚ they should be able to give us a solid game.”
Herschel's superb season with a Stormers side that struggled to get out of first gear resonated with Stick‚ who's a disciple of players getting an opportunity.
“Herschel shows that life is sometimes all about opportunities. He was given an opportunity by the Stormers and he took it with both hands.
"I remember when he played for the Stormers at the end of last season and he did very well. He's been consistent this season and if there's one thing about his game‚ he's clinical with his basics‚” Stick said.
“He's got a good pass when the chance comes‚ he'll snipe around the ruck. He also makes big tackles‚ which shows he's not only in the right space‚ but he's got the potential to become one of the great scrumhalves in the country.
"I'm glad he's part of our squad.”
Saturday's Test will be Australia's first without Israel Folau‚ whose ill-advised tweets pretty much ended his rugby career (league and union) in Australia.
He's a gifted player‚ something Stick acknowledged‚ but life has to go on and Australia‚ a rugby nation that's always been resourceful‚ will find a way to cope without him.
“I know it's sad not to have Folau on the field because he was a special player‚ but we're not going to underestimate whoever takes over in his role.
"James O'Connor is an experienced player who's eligible to play for them and they've also got some experienced players in the position who can fill his role‚” Stick said.