Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Springbok No 8 Pierre Spies, in the almost certain assumption he plays, will earn his 50th international cap in Saturdayâ€™s third Test against England in Port Elizabeth.
He will arrive at that landmark in a fitting and, to be brutally honest, fairly unusual mode: something that can quite genuinely be called â€œformâ€? for his country.
It is not something you can always associate the Bulls captain with, when it comes to his track record at a higher level.
Spies has been an enigmatic factor for the Boks, from pretty much as far back as when he made his debut some six years ago, in that grotesque 49-0 thumping in Australia.
A lack of consistency both in matches themselves and series or competitions has punctuated the Pretoria-born loose forwardâ€™s Test career, even as his known bodily strength and athletic gifts have shone majestically in bursts.
That tendency toward only fitful excellence, in a position that requires constant high industry, alertness and defensive mettle, has been overwhelmingly the main reason why many critics – unashamedly including this one – have felt reason to query his regular presence for the Boks.
For all his attributes, Spies has never been in the same league for 80-minute â€œpresenceâ€? as distinguished other No 8s on the world stage like Kieran Read and