Gelant too good to ignore

Damian Willemse and Frans Steyn will not play in the first Test between the Springboks and Wales. It’s time for the coaches to pick up the phone and call Warrick Gelant, he writes DYLAN JACK.

Over the past two weeks, the Springboks have lost the two players they could afford to pay less due to mid-term injuries, which will prevent them from playing at least in the first Test of the upcoming series against Wales.

Damian Willemse and Frans Steyn are essential to the Bok game plan in the sense that they can cover several positions – including a fly – from the bench. Steyn was influential during the UK tour last November. He replaced Willemse in the first half of the Test in Cardiff and went on to turn in a Man of the Match performance, which included a monster penalty from within his own half.

Willemse, meanwhile, has been in top form since his move to the Stormers midfield this year. Coupled with Manie Libbok and Gelant, Willemse brought both creativity and physicality to a back line that was both lacking last year.

Willemse and Steyn both allow the Boks to effect the six-two split between forwards and backs and release the Bomb Squad replacement pack that pulled them through some great games under Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus.

To replace his influence, the Springboks need someone who can act as a “player”, have an accurate kick game and can cover several positions in the back line.

There are many who fit this role. Dillyn Leyds played defense, midfielder and winger in her career and recently helped La Rochelle be crowned European champions. Kurt-Lee Arendse tore teams to pieces from the back for the Vodacom Bulls and was involved in the alignment camps.

However, Gelant’s absence from the camps was evident. The Springbok coaches need to give that call a rethink.

Why he was not involved in any kind of preparation for the series is any guess. Is it because of his injury record and the fact that he has uncertain knees? The Stormers seem to have managed him with the marathon Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign just fine and reap the benefits. Is it because he reportedly turned down an offer to stay in South Africa and take a big money deal with Racing 92? That didn’t affect Trevor Nyakane, so it doesn’t make sense that it should him.

The Springbok coaches clearly see something that many South African rugby fans, and some from the UK, are not.

I’ve had the privilege of watching the Stormers live week after week this season and can definitely say that Gelant is the key tooth in that back line. The Stormers were able to get past Edinburgh and into the semi-finals without Willemse as Gelant pulled the strings, and it was no surprise that he played a role in the game-changing attempt just after halftime.

The Stormers are not the same team without Gelant and they will not be the same team when he packs his bags for Paris. Without him, they would not have beaten the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld or drawn with the Sharks at Kings Park.

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Evan Roos made Rassie Erasmus encrypt after winning the decisive fourth attempt in the match against Glasgow Warriors. However, Gelant made the real difference in that game when he came off the bench at halftime, but there were crickets from the Bok coaches about his non-selection for the parallelism camps.

Gelant brings creativity, precision and a pure desire to get the ball rolling and make things happen. If making a positive difference every time you’re on the field isn’t enough to get you selected for the Springboks, then one has to ask what it is.

Photo: David Rogers / Getty Images

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