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Springboks fans hail 'colossal' performance in position of 'concern'

By Sam Smith
Trevor Nyakane. (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

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It’s fair to say that while some Springboks fans might have had reservations about the man entrusted with the No 17 for Saturday’s match with the British and Irish Lions, Trevor Nyakane quickly quashed any doubts over his capabilities of covering loosehead prop.

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Throughout the 2019 World Cup, Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus lauded the work of his reserve forwards, dubbed the ‘bomb squad’, who so often entered matches later in the piece and helped South Africa build some ascendancy. Any difference in quality between the starting front row and the reserve trio was negligible at best, with the Springboks having six world-class players to call upon.

While there’s been some player churn since that gold medal finish in Tokyo, South Africa continue to boasts some of the best front-rowers in world rugby – which is why it was such a surprise when the reserve group were worked over by their Lions opposites last weekend.

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Springboks loose forward Duane Vermeulen has missed the opening two matches of the test series with the Lions.

Malcolm Marx and Stephen Kitshoff, who were also on the bench for the 2019 World Cup final, and Frans Malherbe, who started that game, were well and truly put to the sword by the Lion front row in their 5-point loss in the first test.

While the two teams were on even pegging throughout the first half, the scrum advantage very definitely went the way of the tourists in the second stanza.

As such, it wasn’t a surprise that coach Jacques Nienebar made changes this week – though the changes themselves were a bit perplexing.

Kitshoff and Malherbe were promoted into the starting jerseys while last week’s No 1, Ox Niche, was dropped from the lineup altogether. In his place came tighthead Vincent Kock while Trevor Nyakane – the man who looked so competent in the No 3 jersey last week, was handed the loosehead cover role on the bench.

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While Nyakane has filled in at loosehead prop in years gone by, he’s not taken on those responsibilities for the Springboks since 2017.

Unsurprisingly, some fans were apprehensive heading into the test.

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Following the Springboks’ 27-9 win, however, any reservations about Nyakane’s competence at loosehead prop were eradicated.

While the contest remained relatively even in the first half, the Springboks began to dominate their opposition following the break, with the reserve trio joining the fray in the 55th minute – the same time that the Lions rotated their front row.

Nyakane, lining up against England’s Kyle Sinckler, helped South Africa build some dominance over their opposition – dominance which ultimately paved the way for the Springboks to level the series one-all, with next week’s match set to decide the outcome of the tour.

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Springboks fans hail 'colossal' performance in position of 'concern'

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