Big Joe to fill big boots

Joe van Niekerk is the favourite to play in the No 6 jersey against France.

Jake White played Van Niekerk as an openside option against Australia a year ago and has always believed this could be Van Niekerk’s best position. With the injury to Schalk Burger, White has the option of reintroducing Wikus van Heerden or of being more expansive and giving Van Niekerk the jersey.

It would be conservative to bring back Van Heerden. He is a solid but is not a match winner. With White not going to pick Luke Watson as an openside specialist, the most logical option would be to go with a player familiar with White’s playing structures. And that means Van Niekerk.

It would be the least disruptive and it would also mean being able to pick the physical Jacques Cronje at No 8.

White has now lost Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie and Burger in the space of a week.

There’s a message in that.