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Springbok Watch: Players in the Spotlight v Australia at Loftus Versfeld

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies the Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Pretoria on Saturday.

Springbok Players Spotlight Australia

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies the Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Pretoria on Saturday.

Jean Kleyn

All eyes will be on Kleyn as he makes his Springbok debut. The bolter of the 42-man squad, who won five Test caps for Ireland in 2019, will start in the No 4 jersey after being cleared for selection under World Rugby’s new eligibility rules and has the big boots of Eben Etzebeth to fill. 

Since moving to Ireland from the Stormers in 2016, the Johannesburg-born lock has become a formidable force, bringing fierce physicality and muscle to Munster’s engine room. The 29-year-old’s played over 100 games for the club and helped power them to United Rugby Championship glory this year.

Both in style and stature, the 2.03m, 121kg Kleyn fits the mould of a Springbok lock and he’ll be hell-bent on maximising this opportunity that seemingly came out of nowhere. 

Marco van Staden

With Australia traditionally putting a lot of emphasis on the breakdown and it being known that Kwagga Smith would join the group who jetted out to New Zealand on Tuesday, it was always going to be either Van Staden or Deon Fourie who filled the No 6 jersey in Siya Kolisi’s injury-enforced absence as both are hard-nosed ball hawks. 

Van Staden’s been given the nod and probably deservedly so. He’s been a consummate team man since making his debut as a 22-year-old in the 34-21 win over Argentina in Durban in 2018, happily helping out as a player on the periphery whenever frontline stars have been struck down. 

Ten Tests into his international career, the bustling back-rower will finally earn his first start in the green and gold, quite fittingly at his franchise stomping ground, and you can bet he’ll operate at peak intensity. 

Cobus Reinach

One of the veterans included in the side to add experience, Reinach will play a key role at the base. The 24-Test stalwart will take most of the tactical kicking responsibility on himself to ease the pressure on his inexperienced halfback partner and allow the latter to gain confidence and play to his strengths. 

It’s also a good opportunity for the Montpellier ace to get some healthy Test minutes under his belt, as the last time he ran out as a starter was in the 2021 season-ending 27-26 loss to England at Twickenham. 

While tactically sound, Reinach loves to snipe and as one of the fastest scrumhalves in the world, he can exploit the smallest of openings. With his speed and attacking mindset, his partnership with Manie Libbok could prove potent.

Manie Libbok

Speaking of the mercurial Stormers flyhalf, Libbok will don the green and gold No 10 jersey for the first time on the back of a second successive standout URC season. 

Unfortunately, in the eyes of many South African rugby lovers, much of the 25-year-old pivot’s good work was undone by his underwhelming performance in the final against Munster, and Saturday’s showdown serves as a litmus test of his big-match temperament. 

Flyhalf is the one area in which the Springbok management’s failed to build adequate depth in the current cycle and with Handre Pollard ruled out of the Rugby Championship and the World Cup fast approaching, the world champions need Libbok – who made three appearances off the bench at the end of last season – to come through. 

Canan Moodie

The Paarl-born prodigy is an electrifying talent. The problem is he’s been sidelined for so long that he’s in desperate need of game time and has, therefore, been thrust right back into the starting line-up. 

It was against the Wallabies that Moodie made his dream debut last year, becoming the second-youngest Springbok in the professional era and soaring over Marika Koroibete to pluck Jaden Hendrikse’s kick out of the air and race in for a remarkable maiden Test try in Sydney.

The 20-year-old will want to return to those heights and it starts with his comeback party in Pretoria. 

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Canan Moodie, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Deon Fourie, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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