Everybody is worried about tighthead
The dearth of quality tighthead props has moved Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer to look beyond the usual suspects.
Meyer, explaining why he named Lions prop Patric Cilliers ahead of Bulls rival Werner Kruger in the team for the opening rounds of the inaugural Rugby Championship, said he was looking for "the next" tighthead.
The 25-year-old Cilliers is one of five uncapped players in a 30-man Springbok squad for the Tests against Argentina at Newlands on August 18 and Mendoza a week later.
Stormers loose forward Siya Kolisi, Bulls utility back JJ Engelbrecht, Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies and Bulls scrumhalf Jano Vermaak are the other uncapped players.
Cilliers and Kolisi did not feature in the June series against England, although Kolisi was one of six young guns who trained with the Boks. The other three were part of the 32-man squad, although they never featured in a matchday 22.
Having joined the Lions from the Sharks last year, Cilliers has come along in leaps and bounds this year and has now moved past Kruger in the Bok pecking order as Meyer looks for more stability in the set pieces.
"In South African rugby, in fact in world rugby, everybody is worried about tighthead," Meyer said, after naming his team for the Argentina Tests.
"I think [Sharks stalwart] Jannie [du Plessis] has been playing great rugby, but the next guy hasn't put his hand up yet."
Meyer confirmed that the absence of World Cup-winning prop CJ Van der Linde is related to a string of injuries, with the veteran missing a large chunk of the Lions' season - most recently with a serious hamstring strain.
"CJ [van der Linde] is injured and a lot of the guys have moved overseas," Meyer said, adding: "Pat [Cilliers] was close to the first squad [in June].
"I said I was going with a little more experience in my first squad ... Werner [Kruger] got the nod.
"Now I want to give Pat [Cilliers] an opportunity to see what he can do.
"The important thing, with Coenie [Oosthuizen] being out with a [neck] injury, you want a guy on the bench who can play loosehead and tighthead prop.
"Pat is probably the only guy at this stage that can play both."
Meyer admitted it was a "tough" call to drop the Bulls No.3, but said Cilliers must make the best of his opportunity in the upcoming internationals.
"Werner is a fighter and he will be back," the Bok coach said, adding: "He [Werner Kruger] needs game time now [in the Currie Cup] to prove that he can play with the best."
By Jan de Koning, from the Bok camp