Rock of the ages

RYAN VREDE writes that Danie Rossouw’s value to the Springboks in a World Cup context will be further underlined when he starts at lock on Saturday.

The Springboks have been severely depleted in the second row department, losing Johann Muller and Flip van der Merwe to injuries within days of each other. It is too soon to make an absolute judgement on Alistair Hargreaves. He is just three Tests into his international career. However, he certainly hasn’t given the impression that he can be anything beyond a purely competent option.

Hargreaves is expected to drop to the bench for the clash in Wellington against New Zealand, lending support to the previous assertion. His place is likely to be taken by Gerhart Mostert, who will partner Rossouw in the second row.

Rossouw’s versatility is a massive boon for the Springboks. His true value, however, is not only is he adaptable, but has a high level of competency whether he plays at either of the lock positions, blindside flank or No. 8, the role he filled so successfully at the World Cup in France. No Test nation can boast a player of such ilk.

At the Bulls his value is acknowledged and fully appreciated. They are acutely aware of what they are losing when Rossouw ends his 10-year tenure at the franchise to take up a deal with Japanese side Suntory after the World Cup.

Certainly the fact that the last three Springboks coaches have consistently selected him suggests they too recognise his worth. Yet it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest he has, among most Springboks supporters, been grossly undervalued.

He has been ever-present in most of the Springboks’ notable triumphs over the last eight years. Furthermore, Rossouw’s humility is an endearing quality. While most fringe players have expressed their frustration at riding the wood more than they feel they should, Rossouw has openly acknowledged that he is playing in a generation were there are superior players in the positions he can occupy. Yet remove him from the selection equation, particularly when faced with injuries or a slumps in form of the lock and loose trio incumbents, and the Springboks will be in a dire situation.

Through the offerings of Springboks head coach Peter de Villiers, it has become increasingly obvious that Rossouw will be his go-to man at blindside flank should Juan Smith fail to recover from an Achilles injury that curtailed his Super Rugby campaign. I have no reservations about his aptitude should this scenario unfold, which is not to underestimate Smith’s immense value to the Springboks.

For Saturday’s match, however, he looks set to start in the No 5 jumper, requiring him to tap into the more athletic attributes he possesses (as opposed to being asked to play tighter as a No 4 lock which is adept at). Again, there is no discernible sense of concern around this selection, which again speaks to Rossouw’s competence.

In the midst of the turmoil that these Springboks find themselves, Rossouw’s presence is one factor that should be comforting when viewed in the context of their World Cup title defence. I’ve written it before and I’ll reiterate the point: He is a national treasure. Sadly, I suspect his value will only fully be appreciated once his Test career ends.

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