The Springboks pulled a surprise by naming Canan Moodie to start at outside centre against the All Blacks, but his coach and club teammate have backed him to swim in the deep end. DYLAN JACK reports.
Moodie will wear the No 13 jersey for the first time in his professional career when the Springboks conclude their preparation for the World Cup against New Zealand at Twickenham on Friday.
While it is a position he was well accustomed to during his high school days at Boland Landbou, the 20-year-old has been utilised exclusively among the outside backs at the Bulls and Boks.
However, with Jesse Kriel wrapped in cotton wool following his brace against Wales in Cardiff and Lukhanyo Am still on the road back from his knee injury, Jacques Nienaber has to give Moodie a shot at a position many believe to be his future.
“From the outside, it looks like an interesting decision,” said Jacques Nienaber after announcing the matchday-23. “But for us, Canan has always been at the back of our minds as a backup there. Canan is now a backup 13 until we have other options to play there. Jesse is starting and in-form, we can shift Damian de Allende out there – which we have done before.
“Lukhanyo is still injured and probably two weeks away from being fully fit. With that in mind, we’ve played Canan there in training. That’s why we are comfortable with playing Canan there and it will be a nice challenge for him.
“It might look like a left-field option, but he has spent a lot of time with us and run there often in training. As coaches, we get to see him play there, even though it is only in training.
“There will be adjustments. I am not sure who New Zealand is selecting, but if they play Rieko [Ioane], he is one of the top 13s in the world. So it will be a nice challenge for Canan. I truly believe he is up for it.”
Moodie has looked impressive with his defensive reads in the build-up to the World Cup and scored an intercept try to seal his brace against the Dragons at the Millenium Stadium.
His teammate at the Vodacom Bulls, Kurt-Lee Arendse, backed his roommate to quickly adjust to new surroundings on Friday night.
“Yeah, I’ve seen what Canan can do,” said Arendse. “He has grown as a player, he is very competitive and I think he will do really well at 13. I am very happy for him.
“When we are in the room, he always says he would like to get an opportunity at 13. Now he has the chance and I think he will make the best of it.”
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