Paige turner for Boks


That was just over a month ago on October 1, and the tears were streaming down the face of the 27-year-old from Heidelberg in the Western Cape during the national anthem.

It was as if he had come full circle after the “trauma” he had to endure at the Rugby World Cup last November, when he was brought on for the last three minutes of the third-place play-off against Argentina by then-coach Heyneke Meyer, despite the Boks having already secured the victory well before the end of what was essentially a meaningless game.

Paige did what he does best in the Wallaby game - clearing the ball out quickly to his flyhalf, making good decisions and not hesitating at the breakdowns, and putting in a few accurate kicks and courageous tackles.

He was everything the lively but erratic Faf de Klerk was not, and he was here to stay.

But then Kane Douglas’ trailing knee struck Paige’s head, and he left the field in the 57th minute, missing the next week’s Test against the world champion All Blacks in Durban.

So, Saturday’s massive encounter against England represents almost a second coming for Paige.

He was highly efficient again in last week’s tour opener against the Barbarians, but it’s all about the big occasion at Twickenham.

Paige will face the biggest game of his career, for a number of reasons, and some of those are not of his own doing - the Boks come off a 57-point pummelling against New Zealand, they are embarking on a more positive style of play, and the fit-again Pat Lambie is likely to start ahead of Elton Jantjies.

Paige had Morne Steyn alongside him at Loftus, and both men were well-versed in what was required in familiar surroundings.

Plus Wallaby scrumhalf on the day, veteran Will Genia, is not the force he used to be.

But with Lambie outside him, Paige will encounter a totally different environment if he wears the No 9 jersey, as expected, against England. There is a 60 percent chance of rain forecast for London on Saturday, with a maximum temperature of 11°C and a bit of a breeze.

So, the pitch will be slippery and the ball even more so, while it will be chilly and wet as well, all of which will make life very difficult for a scrumhalf.

Not only that, but England boast two fine half-backs in Ben Youngs and Danny Care, who have contrasting styles.

Youngs is the same age as Paige (27), but is vastly experienced with 63 Test caps compared to the five of the South African.

Youngs is renowned for his quick feet and pace across the ground, and has a strong kicking game, too.

He controls the tempo of the game for England as much as flyhalf George Ford does, and could prove to be a handful for Paige.

Care, though, is a more abrasive No 9 who likes to take on the defence and run with the ball, and enjoys getting stuck in on defence, too.

His tactical kicking is not as good as Youngs', but he makes up for it in all the other areas.

There are still a lot of doubters out there about whether he is the best option for the Boks, with Francois Hougaard’s injury perhaps having made it easier for coach Allister Coetzee to go with Paige following the Lions' De Klerk’s struggles during the Rugby Championship.

But Paige must continue where he left off against Australia.

He needs to be sure in his decision-making, feed the backline, kick well and defend heroically.

If he can do that on Saturday, it will go a long way to establishing himself as the first-choice No 9, and could just be the catalyst for an unlikely Bok win.

Cape Times

Original source: Paige turner for Boks