In 2019 when the Springboks won the World Cup in Japan, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi “owned” the No 14 and No 11 jerseys respectively.
And, powerhouse Sbu Nkosi was their back-up, with the then Sharks-man in stunning try-scoring form and pushing hard for a permanent starting role.
A year earlier, in 2018, Aphiwe Dyantyi was the “chosen one”, after a blistering two seasons with the Lions culminated with him being rewarded with World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year gong.
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How things have changed.
Dyantyi is currently serving a four-year ban for failing a drugs test in 2019. He is expected to return to action in August next year. Talk is he will run out for the Sharks.
Nkosi, meanwhile, has had an up and down time of it since the World Cup. While he has been in the Springbok picture throughout, injuries have robbed him of playing time and he missed this month’s tour of Europe with the Boks. He is currently with the Bulls.
Arendse and Moodie
Mapimpi and Kolbe have been constants for the Boks when fit, but Kolbe has had his injuries and Mapimpi has lost his place in the team this year, thanks to the emergence of a few new hot shots on the local rugby scene.
Kurt-Lee Arendse has had a sensational start to his Bok career, even though he served a ban during the Rugby Championship because of a bad tackle, while young Canaan Moodie has also impressed the Bok bosses.
Both the Bulls men, Arendse and Moodie, can play 11, 14 and 15, so too Kolbe, which gives Bok coach Jacques Nienaber options every weekend, while Mapimpi is possibly only good for wing, which leaves him somewhat at a disadvantage.
It has been interesting to note how Nienaber and Co have picked their back three this season and following the recent Tests in Europe it is almost a given that going into 2023 and the World Cup, the Bok fullback will be either Willie le Roux or Damian Willemse, if the Stormers man isn’t retained at flyhalf.
Much will depend on the fitness and form of Handre Pollard and whether Elton Jantjies returns to the set-up next year, and also how Johan Goosen performs.
What this all means is that with the No 15 position sorted out, Kolbe, Mapimpi, Moodie, Arendse and possibly Nkosi, as well as maybe Dyantyi later on, will be vying for two positions.
What is clear is that there is some serious competition for the two Bok wing places. And while Mapimpi has a phenomenal strike rate of scoring 22 tries in 35 Tests and is a proven finisher, and a player with sound defence, good aerial skills and a nose for the tryline, his place in the starting team in recent months seems to have become a bit shaky.
Quizzed this week about Mapimpi’s position in the squad, Nienaber said: “I don’t want to call it rotation, but we need to give players experience at the highest level.
“Makazole knows what we’re doing, what the strategy is. We’re trying to give a guy like Kurt-Lee (Arendse) experience. We know what quality Makazole has, but we also need to build depth.”
With Kolbe ruled out this weekend because the Test against England on Saturday falls outside the international window, Mapimpi is back in the starting side, and in the No 11 jersey. Arendse, who scored two wonderful tries last week against Italy and assisted Cobus Reinach’s score, is in the No 14 jersey.
Moodie, who made such an impression earlier this year with a try on debut against Australia, will be on the bench.
Going into the 2023 season the battle for the Bok wing positions has never been more fierce.
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