Kurt-Lee Arendse made a big impression on his Test debut, and the Springbok flyer is determined to make the most of the offered big-stage clash with the All Blacks in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Arendse will run out in the No 14 jersey at the Mbombela Stadium, where the Springboks will open the Rugby Championship campaign against old rivals New Zealand.
The 26-year-old takes the place of the injured Cheslin Kolbe, saying ahead of the Test he hopes to make the most of his chance to shine in one of rugby’s biggest spectacles.
“I am very grateful for this opportunity,” said Arendse at the team’s base in Mbombela on Wednesday. “It’s a real privilege to follow in Cheslin’s footsteps. Cheslin has a good sidestep and he is strong in the air and a very explosive player, so there is a lot to admire about him.”
Arendse made his Test debut in a heavily altered Springbok lineup which suffered a last-gasp loss to Wales in Bloemfontein, but he was among the few players who acquitted themselves well, making a few solid defensive hits and a couple of linebreaks.
Having been schooled at Paulus Joubert Secondary in Paarl, Arendse had grasped every rugby opportunity in his career. He has gone from playing for the University of the Western Cape in the Varsity Shield to representing the Blitzboks in the World Sevens Series and then helping the Bulls win back-to-back Currie Cups and progress to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final.
“I didn’t think a year ago that I would play for the Springboks, so I’m extremely grateful for this chance and hopefully I can grab it with both hands,” added Arendse.
Arendse was joined by teammate Franco Mostert on Wednesday, who rejected the notion that the Springboks were going into Saturday’s match as favourites despite the drama surrounding the All Blacks camp.
“I won’t say there is a favourite for this game, to be honest,” said the versatile forward, who has played Tests as lock and blindsider.
“The All Blacks are world class despite their series defeat against Ireland, and we come off a defeat and two wins in our last three matches, so both teams will be hungry for a win. I think it will be a great match.
“There are guys in the side that have faced the All Blacks before, and they know that even with their backs against the wall they are a dangerous team, and they will always bring their best to the field.”
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