Cape Town – Evan Roos has waited so long for a second Springbok cap that he even packed down in a new position in training ahead of Saturday’s Test against Italy in Genoa (3pm SA time kickoff).
“I can cover at seven, and if needed at six – and I even scrummed at lock today! I’m a bit short, but if they need me there, I’ll scrum – they must give me 21-inch studs and I’m there… I am trying to focus on eight as my main role, and seven secondary,” the Stormers star said this week.
The 22-year-old Roos was one of the standouts in the Cape side’s journey to the United Rugby Championship crown, and many rugby pundits clamoured for him to go straight into the Bok starting line-up against Wales earlier this year.
But coach Jacques Nienaber kept faith with last season’s first-choice No 8, Jasper Wiese, and utilised Kwagga Smith at the back of the scrum against France last Saturday when Wiese was sidelined with concussion.
Roos, though – having made his debut against Wales in Bloemfontein in July – will finally earn his second cap this weekend after being included on the bench against the Azzurri.
“Obviously I’m very excited. I am still struggling to sleep at night! It’s been a while since I could represent the country. It’s always such an honour to do it again, and I can’t wait,” the dynamic ball-carrier said.
“It’s awesome being part of the Bomb Squad, and when I got on, I must just bring the energy and presence and stuff, and just play like I normally do. I’m not going to try something different or new, and hopefully that’s enough.
“I got my first taste of it against Wales, and I’ve waited a while and now I’m getting my chance, so you learn how to appreciate it. When the chances don’t come around often, it makes it so much more special, and it’s such a big privilege to represent your country and pull on that green jersey.”
Wiese will start at No 8 at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Saturday, but won’t be available for next week’s showdown against England as it is outside the international window – which means he has to return to club duty at Leicester Tigers.
So, there’s a lot that Roos is playing for on Saturday, as a strong display off the bench could see him take over from Wiese at Twickenham.
He also spoke about a message from veteran No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who told him that “he will always have my back”, which meant a lot to the Cape youngster.
But he can prove that he is worthy of that support once more by showcasing his undoubted talent at the highest level against an Italian side that knocked over Australia 28-27 last week, and Samoa 49-17 a week earlier.
They have an outstanding loose trio comprising No 8 Lorenzo Cannone, openside flank Michele Lamaro and blindside Sebastian Negri, as well as Benetton’s Toa Halafihi on the bench.
“They’ve got a solid scrum, a good front row and a few poaching threats as well. So, we as a forward pack need to get momentum, and give our backs a chance to run at them,” Roos said.
“We have to be up for it at the set-piece, lineouts, scrums, mauls – bring the physicality, and just do what we normally do.
“Italy are a quality side and have two wins in a row (against Australia and Samoa) and are on a good path. But we are preparing well and have trained hard this week, and there is a good feeling in the team.”