Quintin van Jaarsveld looks at the players within the current Springbok set-up who’ll be fighting for World Cup places in the Rugby Championship and three subsequent warm-up Tests.
A 42-man squad on Thursday concluded a three-week training camp in Pretoria in preparation for the Rugby Championship. With only 33 places available on the plane to the World Cup in France later this year, cuts will need to be made.
While the bulk of the squad is set, the following players are on the bubble and need to show Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber why they should be among the chosen ones to defend the crown in the global showpiece:
The Stormers powerhouse is exceptionally explosive but is still trying to find his feet at Test level. The pressure of playing at the highest level has seen him struggle with his lineout throwing and with the driving maul being such a vital of the Springbok game plan, the coaches seek dependability from their hookers in this fundamental duty above all.
After a solid career at hooker, Fourie’s been phenomenal in his second act as a tireless and tenacious fetcher and with the back row overflowing with talent, the evergreen Stormers star’s versatility could see him fill the third hooker slot, the one Dweba’s occupying, like Schalk Brits did in 2019.
The bolter and only uncapped member of the squad, Kleyn has been roped in due to injuries in the second row. The former Stormers lock has thrived since making the move to Ireland in 2016, winning five Test caps for his adopted nation and the United Rugby Championship with Munster, and will be getting an outside chance to force his way into the World Cup squad.
A World Cup winner in 2019, a fit Snyman would be a lock as he’s a one-of-a-kind second-rower with his added offloading ability. Because of a terrible run of injuries, he hasn’t featured in the green and gold since coming off the bench against England in the World Cup final. A recent URC winner, he needs just come through his reintegration unscathed and he’ll be golden.
Kleyn and Snyman are chasing the spot currently occupied by Orie. Mainly used when one of the so-called core four is injured, the 30-year-old has won 11 Test caps and donned the No 5 jersey in the season-ending wins over Italy and England in November. He’s starting to settle at Test level but needs to do more to lock down a permanent place in the squad.
Marco van Staden
Injuries saw Van Staden return to the mix and add a 10th Test cap to his name as a replacement in last year’s 27-13 triumph over England at Twickenham and it’s once again why he currently finds himself in the fold with captain Siya Kolisi working his way back from knee surgery. As one of the loose forwards on the chopping block, he needs to do something special to possibly edge ahead of another fringe player.
A can’t-miss prospect, a consistently stellar Roos forced his way into the squad last year after initially being overlooked and played in three Tests, including starting in the No 8 jersey against England. He boasts unrivalled dynamism but at just 22, he’s been guilty of letting his temper get out of control. His main job will be to show the Springbok brains trust that he can channel his aggression like an Eben Etzebeth.
Jean-Luc du Preez
The Springbok coaches have in recent years given up on Rynhardt Elstadt, proved a point (in their minds) with Marcell Coetzee and hit pause on Elrigh Louw, yet they’ve kept Du Preez on the outermost fringes, roping him in periodically like they did last year without utilising him. With the last of the Sale utility forward’s 13 Tests dating back to 2018, it’s high time he’s given an opportunity to prove his worth.
After a meteoric rise saw him go from a relative unknown to a World Cup winner in 2019, Jantjies slowly started to fizzle out in the international sphere to where he’s now fallen behind Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach and Jaden Hendrikse. With Hendrikse currently on the shelf, Jantjies has a chance to stake his claim for the third scrumhalf berth.
Williams is gunning for the same spot as Jantjies. In contrast to the Stormers star, he’s on the up, having delivered one electrifying performance after the other for the Sharks and will likely win his second Test cap in the Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Pretoria.
Among the most notable absentees when the initial 40-man squad was announced was Johan Goosen. The Bulls flyhalf has struggled with form and with a history of injuries, his Springbok comeback has been shelved. Libbok’s now in line to show why he should remain as the third-choice flyhalf after his three performances on the end-of-year tour last November.
Just when it looked as if last year’s scandal had put an end to his Springbok career, Jantjies answered an injury-enforced SOS after being omitted from the original squad. However, the veteran now finds himself down in fourth place in the flyhalf pecking order and isn’t expected to get much game time. Standout cameos are the best he can hope for.
After earning a recall last year, the Springbok coaches kept Esterhuizen like a caged animal, using him three times in ‘lesser’ Tests against Wales, Argentina and Italy. He had a blinder against the Azzurri but with Damian Willemse able to cover No 12 and a shoo-in, the Harlequins midfield monster could be overlooked for another utility back and will look to show the value of having a specialist back-up option.