Sharks star Adi Jacobs appears to have stolen the march on fellow Springbok midfielder Jaque Fourie in the big battle for the Bok outside centre berth in the national side.
Since his return to the Bok fold last year after a six-year absence – while Fourie was struggling to overcome his injury setback – the No.13 Green and Gold jersey has belonged to Jacobs.
It was expected that Fourie, now fighting fit again, would lay strong claims to being reinstated as the country’s first choice outside centre in this year’s Super 14 – especially with the British and Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa just months away.
But Jacobs’ form has been such that many pundits feel Fourie will spend the international season as back-up.
And that is unlikely to change, despite the Sharks’ 13-25 loss to the Reds in Brisbane last Saturday. His cause was certainly aided by the fact that on the same day the Lions suffered a humiliating 18-56 reversal at the hands of the Stormers.
However, the revitalised Sharks midfielder is full of praise for his main rival as Bok No.13.
“He is a phenomenal player,” Jacobs told rugby365.com, when asked about his rivalry with Fourie.
“SA have the luxury of having a player of his quality sitting on the bench, it is to the benefit of the Boks if we can push each other to higher levels by trying to keep the other player on the bench.”
Jacobs, looking to add to his 21 Test caps, said it is “always” a great honour to play for your country, but so much more special when there is stiff competition for the position you are in.
“That is the nature of South African rugby,” he said of the rivalry adding: “We are so blessed to have quality players in every position – from No.1 to No.15 – to call on.
“You just need that opportunity to show what talent you have.
“Hopefully we both [Jaque Fourie and myself] will get those opportunities from the Bok coach and when you get that chance you must take it.
“I was blessed to be given another chance to run out at No.13 for South Africa,” he said of his return to the fold last year, after spending six years in the international wilderness.
The 28-year-old Sharks midfield, in Brisbane preparing for the Sharks final Super 14 tour game against the Western Force on Saturday, feels the real strength of South African rugby is the incredible depth they have across the board.
“In most of the key positions there is a lot of quality players that are pushing those players in the starting line-up,” he told rugby365.
“It is when you get that chance you must take it.
“I look at myself, I was out for six years and then I got back into the Bok side and I got that opportunity to show that I deserve to be there.
“Obviously there were some critics who felt I didn’t deserve it – so hopefully I have now proved them wrong.
“The core of the [Bok] squad have depth. Just look at a player like Schalk Burger, he has a couple of youngsters pushing for that position. Or John Smit and Jannie du Plessis.
“It is question of who do you leave out, not who do you select, because there’s so much talent … and the blend is also very good.”
By Jan de KoningTweet