South Africa is famous for its loose-forwards and it is a measure of our tremendous depth in that department that Roelof Smit, who toured with the Springboks in 2016, can only get a game of top-flight rugby when he turns out for the Toyota Invitation XV to play the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
A 25-man squad for the Invitation XV was announced on Wednesday and includes a fully-fledged Springbok in wing Jamba Ulengo, who played a Test against Wales in 2016.
Smit was chosen for the 2016 end-of-year tour as an openside flank, having burst on to the scene that year as one of the Bulls’ young stars. His only appearance on that tour was against the Barbarians, and although he scored a try he did not play in one of the Tests against England, Italy or Wales and so is not considered an official Springbok.
And since then he has suffered numerous injuries. Even a move to the Lions has not helped and he has fallen down the pecking order there as well after being knocked down by another spate of injuries. Last year he only returned to action in October, but suffered a calf injury in the new year and then yet another knee injury at the end of February.
Ulengo made a fine start to Super Rugby Unlocked action last October but has since rather faded from view at the Lions. But he has picked himself up numerous times in his career and Saturday gives him an opportunity to get himself back into the limelight.
Also among the backs named in the Invitation XV is Innocent Radebe, one of the most exciting schoolboy flyhalves in the country whose senior career has also been dogged by much bad luck. He was named by Peter de Villiers as his Eastern Province captain, only to fracture his hand three minutes into his first game in the kick-off series at the start of this season.
Saturday’s match in Bloemfontein between the Cheetahs and Invitation XV kicks off at 4pm.
Toyota Invitation XV squad
Forwards: Dan Jooste (Sharks), Jean Droste (Cheetahs), Jeandre Labuschagne (Sharks), Johan du Toit (WP), Khwezi Mona (Sharks), Kwenzo Bloze (WP), Marnus van der Merwe (Cheetahs), Michael Kumbirai (Sharks), Mihlali Mosi (NMMU), Reinier Viljoen (Cheetahs U20), Roelof Smit (Lions), Ruhan Straeuli (Lions), Sazi Sandi (WP), WJ Steenkamp (Bulls).
Backs: Corne Smit (WP), Dillon Smit (Lions), Innocent Radebe (EP), Jamba Ulengo (Lions), Jason Alexander (WP), JP Duvenhage (Shimlas), Keegan Johannes (Bulls), Leolin Zas (WP), Richard Kriel (Bulls), Shane Bolton (Shimlas), Tristin Leyds (WP).