Ross Skeate’s battle with Chris Jack in their Vodacom Super 14 encounter at Newlands on Saturday will give an accurate indication of whether Skeate deserves Springbok recognition this year.
With Jake White due to name an extended squad of 45, Skeate is one of the uncapped names that has been linked with elevation. Depth at lock has always been an area of concern for White, and Skeate’s performances for the Stormers this year have suggested he may be the long-term answer to back up Victor Matfield.
The blight on Skeate’s copybook, however, has been his performance against the Waratahs and likely Wallaby Dan Vickerman.
Vickerman dominated lineout time in their Round Two clash, and despite Skeate responding a week later with a Man-of-the-Match performance against the Brumbies, he will know that outplaying Chris Jack will be the only way to silence the Waratahs ghosts.
Along with Matfield, Jack is regarded as the world’s finest lineout exponent, and Skeate knows a big display would cause his Bok shares to rise at the perfect time.
“I rate Chris as one of the best locks in world rugby,” Skeate told keo.co.za. “He has consistently produced for seasons now, and is one of the major reasons behind the Crusaders success. He gets around the park and is a very physical player, but his major strength lies in his lineout ability.
“I am not even thinking about possible Springbok selection, but I think it’s pretty obvious that you are going to be compared to likely international opponents, and Jack is certainly one of them. I am under no illusions about what it will take to match and better him, but it is a task that I believe I’m well rested and ready for.”
Skeate was forced to miss the Stormers’ tour ending victory over the Reds, but is certain of reclaiming a slot in the second row for the Crusaders clash.
“We actually had a pretty successful tour on reflection, nine log points represents a good effort. We now have the opportunity to finish strongly and aim for a top half finish, and a win against the Crusaders would set us up perfectly for that.”
The Stormers take on the Sharks in Durban and the Bulls in Cape Town to round off their campaign.
By Chris Hewitt