Springboks fans hail 'colossal' performance in position of 'concern'
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nyakane is the reserve loosehead ??? uh oh.
We have different front row issues now.
6-2 was kind of expected. Hopefully Pollard has enough ?? to play for 80 minutes. https://t.co/j77v3i6Ojz
— Thala Msutu (@ThalaMsutu77) July 27, 2021
As far as team selection goes, Trevor Nyakane at loosehead is a bit of a concern for the Springboks.
Shifting between the two prop positions doesn't traditionally work at this level.
Kyle Sinckler is a terrific scrummager and will exploit this.#LionsSA2021
— Dylan Jack (@dylmjack) July 27, 2021
Trevor Nyakane covering loosehead is certainly interesting.
Jacques seemed sure that Koch could play loosehead too, though I haven't seen that before. Rassie agreed.
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) July 27, 2021
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.
Trevor Nyakane demolished that Lions scrum. Love to see it #RSAvBIL
— Sadique Kaisvel (@SadiqueK) July 31, 2021
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) July 31, 2021
— Ryan Vrede (@Ryan_Vrede) July 31, 2021
Kolisi was colossal. But how well has Trevor Nyakane bounced back from the SA A outing? A giant… #SAvLIO
— Heinz Schenk (@sportmal) July 31, 2021
Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch and Malcolm Marx were excellent off the bench tonight.
Exactly the impact the Boks need from their bomb squad.
Nyakane, playing his first Test at loosehead since 2017, was brilliant.#LionsSA2021
— Dylan Jack (@dylmjack) July 31, 2021
As far as I know Trevor Nyakane last played at loosehead in October 2018 in a Currie Cup match! How unbelievable that he’s stepped up like that in a test match
— Andrew Forde (@andrewfrugby) July 31, 2021
Nyakane hasn't played loosehead for the Boks since 2017. Immediately wins a scrum penalty. Do me a favour, that's unreal.
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) July 31, 2021
It’s amazing what Nyakane has done to switch back to loosehead in a week. Immense performance.
— Thala Msutu (@ThalaMsutu77) July 31, 2021
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