Super Rugby star weighs in on who should start at No 9 for Springboks
Crusaders star Bryn Hall believes Cobus Reinach has not yet proven enough to show that he deserves the South African No 9 jersey ahead of incumbent scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.
Reinach has been afforded starting opportunities in the last three Springboks tests after De Klerk, South Africa’s incumbent scrumhalf, sustained a leg muscle strain during the second British and Irish Lions test earlier this month.
In doing so, Reinach has leapfrogged Herschel Jantjies as the second-choice Springboks halfback, allowing him to feature in the decisive test against the Lions, as well as South Africa’s opening two Rugby Championship wins over Argentina.
Starting in three consecutive tests is a rare occurrence for the 31-year-old, who has accrued just 18 tests since his international debut against the Wallabies seven years ago.
In fact, the only other time Reinach has started in three straight tests came back in 2014, when he donned the No 9 jersey in three successive matches against England, Italy and Wales.
The Montpellier star’s return to the starting lineup may be fortuitous given De Klerk’s injury, but it’s also indicative of Reinach’s impressive form which has kept Jantjies and Jaden Henrikse, prior to his season-ending injury, out of the starting lineup.
That has led to speculation over where Reinach stands once De Klerk returns to full fitness, but, while speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Hall said the former still needs to refine his kicking game if he is to usurp the latter.
Hall, a three-time Super Rugby champion and two-time Super Rugby Aotearoa title-winner with the Crusaders, said that while he has long been an admirer of Reinach’s ability as a ball runner, De Klerk still takes the cake due to his tactical kicking prowess.
“We talked about [Wallabies halfback] Tate McDermott in that test match against the All Blacks, being able to play on top of teams at speed and being able to hold that hard defence up and make them make decisions,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“Reinach does a really good job of that, so I think it depends what way they do want to go around that, because if you’re going to go a kicking game, then probably Faf de Klerk in that pressure game, he’s probably just a little bit better around his kicking game.
“Reinach’s done a great job and still kicks very well, but I think Faf de Klerk is probably the best in the world at that kind of game plan.
“Cobus Reinach, if they want to have a running game that we’ve talked about with Elton Jantjies in there with him last week, and even then this week, with his running game, he’s a guy you can start, so it just depends what style they do want to go.
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“Even if you do bring Reinach off the bench, we’ve talked about that 21 impact role and being able to come on late in games, he can play that role as well. Faf de Klerk can do it, but I think he’d probably be a better starter going forward.”
Hall, a Maori All Blacks representative, added that, after having his box kicks charged by Los Pumas lock Tomas Lavanini last week, Reinach’s box kicking needs some work done to it before he can surpass De Klerk in the Springboks pecking order.
“If you’re talking about box kicks and contestable kicks, then yeah, I think the execution of not getting charged down is probably at the forefront [of his work-ons],” Hall said.
“Cobus Reinach, he’s been in the northern hemisphere and probably has a pretty good idea of what it looks like, but it’s a credit to Lavanini and his timing around it.
“I look at Mitchell Dunshea in our team. He’s just got a real knack of being able to charge down the ball, so I think that’ll be an easy fix with the length of ruck and probably his direction.”
Furthermore, Hall said De Klerk’s natural intuition of scoping out space in the backfield makes him an invaluable part of the South African squad.
“I think what Faf de Klerk does really well, with not just his contestable gain, but it’s his attacking kicks. He’s got a really good ability to be able to see the space in behind [the defensive line].
“If you talk about the pendulum, he’s got a really good understanding of where they [the back three] are, and it’s not just contestable kicks.
“It’s being able to put it into a corner or a long kick and then being able to bounce it out and you can gain momentum by being able to put them [your teammates] into their attacking zone on the defensive team’s side.
“I think Faf de Klerk is just a little bit better around that and seeing field space and doing it at test level.
“Not to say Cobus Reinach can’t do it, but Faf de Klerk has been proven at a high level for a long time, being able to implement that game plan.”
Both Reinach and De Klerk travelled to Queensland this week to continue their Rugby Championship campaign, which will continue, for the Springboks, against the Wallabies on the Gold Coast on September 12.
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