Bulls, Stormers big men trying to lock in names in Springbok team for British Lions tour
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CAPE TOWN - Who will stand tallest between the four starting locks from the Bulls and Stormers at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night?
That is not only a pun on the second-rowers, but a very real question as Springbok places are up for grabs for the British and Irish Lions Test series.
That is because yet another of the World Cup-winning locks have gone down injured – or in this case, has a different issue to deal with.
RG Snyman has been making good progress from a serious knee injury, and was expected to return soon for Irish club Munster to prove his fitness to Bok coach Jacques Nienaber for the Lions tour.
But yesterday, Munster announced that Snyman has picked up a new, unrelated knee injury, and will undergo a minor procedure that will sideline him for a “number of weeks”.
Well, there are 12 weeks from now until the first Lions Test scheduled for July 24. And with no exact time-frame for Snyman's return – and the league fixtures of the Rainbow Cup in Europe set to end on June 12 – it leaves him with little time to get match-fit for the Boks.
Another giant second-rower, Lood de Jager, is also out of the mix right now, having sustained a broken leg during training at English club Sale in early April.
His coach Alex Sanderson has been impressed by his work ethic during rehabilitation, and believes the former Bulls stalwart can be ready for the Lions series.
But that remains to be seen, which is why Saturday's Rainbow Cup SA clash at Cape Town Stadium (kick-off 6.15pm) is an ideal opportunity for one of the locks to catch the eye of the Bok selectors.
With Salmaan Moerat out with a neck injury, Marvin Orie partnered JD Schickerling in the Stormers' 33-30 loss to the Sharks last week, and is likely to start against the Bulls once more.
For Jake White's side, Ruan Nortjé has been the go-to man in the line-outs over the last year, and he was again at his commanding best in the 22-9 victory over the Lions last Saturday.
While White will only announce his starting side tomorrow, he is sure to strongly consider bringing back Walt Steenkamp, who was excellent as a replacement for Janko Swanepoel against the Lions.
Mind you, Swanepoel had a busy game too, but Steenkamp was only benched as he is working his way back from a heart problem caused by Covid-19 late last year.
The former Cheetahs lock proved that he is in top shape at Loftus Versfeld, so his line-out prowess in particular will come in handy against Schickerling and Orie, who are both essentially No 5 line-out specialists too.
Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert will have the inside lane for starting spots if both De Jager and Snyman are not ready for the Lions series, but it will be a Bok lock shoot-out between Steenkamp, Nortjé, Schickerling and Orie at Cape Town Stadium.