Rugby
John Goliath, Rugby Editor, KweséESPN 23d

Ruhan Nel unlikely to feature for the Springboks against Wallabies

"It is the dream of every South African player to wear the green and gold."

When Ruhan Nel uttered these words just over a month ago he probably didn't realise that his team dream of becoming a Springbok was a lot closer than he had imagined.

On Sunday Nel was included in the Springbok squad for the home matches over the next few weeks against Australia in Port Elizabeth and New Zealand in Pretoria. He comes into the fold following injuries to centres Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, who started in the Boks' win against the All Blacks.

The Springboks Sevens star decided to pursue his dream last month after winning another Sevens World Series title with the Blitzboks. He has been performing well in his second season with Western Province after an impressive stint in the Currie Cup with the Cape side in 2017.

Nel has been impressive in the blue-and-white hoops of WP in the No 13 jersey. He has been a handful on attack, as has the pace and power have caused havoc in the middle of the park. He also has superb vision, while his work-rate and one-on-one defending have been superb as well.

WP coach John Dobson also praised Nel's contribution for WP and has punted the centre as a future Springbok.

It seems that Nel has been on coach Rassie Erasmus' and his management's radar all along, as assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said on Monday that they were impressed by him during a couple of training sessions with the Sevens team earlier this year.

"Ruhan has been a massive part of the Blitzboks' success over the last few years. He made the bold decision to concentrate fulltime on 15s. We had a few training sessions against the Sevens team and we felt like this boy has got something to offer," Stick, a former Sevens legend, told reporters.

"He has also showed some great potential in the Currie Cup so far, and it's great to be able to give players such a Ruhan a chance to show what they can do, especially with the World Cup in mind.

"If I can compare him to a former Springbok it would be Marius Joubert, who was very sneaky around the field, as he had a good eye for space. He also has a great work-rate, and we have to give the SA Sevens team a lot of credit for that."

However, it seems like Nel may not be involved against the Wallabies on Saturday, with Andre Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel looking like Erasmus' preferred centre pairing ahead of the clash at the beautiful Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. It also looks like flyhalf Handre Pollard, who is likely to start at flyhalf on Saturday, will move to inside centre in the second half with Elton Jantjies slotting in at flyhalf.

De Allende, strangely enough, took part in the Boks' training, even though he was ruled out of the next two Tests. He didn't take a lot of contact, though.

Damain Willemse trained at fullback in the absence of Willie le Roux, who is expected to train with the Boks on Tuesday. Cheslin Kolbe was on the wing in the absence of the injured Makazole Mapimpi, who went off injured in the match against the All Blacks.

Upfront, Tendai Mtawarira is likely to return at looshead after Steven Kitshoff started against the All Blacks. That is likely to be the only change to the pack.

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