Durban – He may be a rookie at Test match level, but 21-year-old scrumhalf Embrose Papier is set for an extended run in the Springbok set-up.
Not always included in the Bulls’ Super Rugby match-day squads in 2018 as John Mitchell also gave chances to Ivan van Zyl and Andre Warner, Papier has shot up the Springbok pecking order in quite astonishing fashion in the Erasmus era and he is likely to earn his third Test cap against Argentina in Durban on Saturday as South Africa kick-start their Rugby Championship campaign.
Papier came off the bench for his Test debut in the loss to Wales in Washington on June 2, while he also featured in the disappointing 25-10 defeat to England at Newlands in the third Test later that month.
At the start of the 2018 Super Rugby season, Bulls boss Mitchell opened up on his views that Papier was a future world-class Test player.
The early signs have certainly been encouraging.
Papier has shown a crisp, consistent pass while his commanding of the fringe areas during phase play has been impressive for a youngster.
He also has a largely accurate box kick, while he has the pace and acceleration around the bases of rucks and scrums to cause trouble.
There is, of course, significant development that needs to happen before Papier can be considered anything remotely near world class, but he has been backed by Erasmus and can expect more Boks caps in the near future.
Faf de Klerk is the obvious first-choice No 9 right now and will start on Saturday, while Van Zyl and Ross Cronje miss out on the matchday squad entirely.
“I totally understand why it looks weird that we have four scrumhalves, but you have to have three scrumhalves in your squad because tomorrow a guy can get flu and the third scrumhalf becomes number two,’ Erasmus explained from Umhlanga on Thursday.
“We can also get an injury now and we have to fly on Sunday.”
In discussing his selections for Saturday, Erasmus made it clear that he wants to give Papier as many opportunities as possible in the green and gold.
“Faf is clearly the number one at this stage. Ivan and Ross are those guys who are semi-mature No 9s who we can build towards playing this World Cup and then maybe the next World Cup,” he said.
“Embrose is a guy who we must just give as much Test match game time to as possible, which will build his confidence and experience.
“We feel this one, in South Africa, is a good opportunity. If he can make it here we might even test him against steeper opposition.”
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Damian Willemse
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Substitutes: 16 Diego Fortuny, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia