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Springbok Watch: Players in the Spotlight v New Zealand

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies the Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship blockbuster against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.

Springbok Players Spotlight All Blacks

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies the Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship blockbuster against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.

Bongi Mbonambi

After an average performance by his high standards in the season-opening 43-12 win over the Wallabies last weekend, Mbonambi has been backed to come good ahead of Malcolm Marx. 

He showed good vision and timed his pass to Kurt-Lee Arendse to perfection as the middle man of a pre-planned lineout move that earned the winger his second try, but he had an off day with his lineout throwing, missing the target on a number of occasions, including twice in the attacking 22. 

Doing the basics well is a must against the All Blacks, so that will be Mbonambi’s main responsibility. Everything else should then fall into place.

Eben Etzebeth

Among the group who jetted off to New Zealand early last week and therefore missed the season opener, Etzebeth reclaims his No 4 jersey and has been entrusted with the captaincy. 

Always one to inspire his teammates with brute force and controlled aggression, the honour of leading out his country for the first time since 2019 and 13th overall will add further fuel to the Springbok enforcer’s fire. 

Returning from a lengthy injury lay-off, one has to wonder if the world champion’s eradicator will be rusty. One thing’s for sure, though – he’ll bring the heat. 

Faf de Klerk

After playing an attacking brand of rugby at Loftus, South Africa are set to revert to their pragmatic approach against their arch-rivals and De Klerk will have the most important role to play in that regard. 

The veteran scrumhalf has vast experience in driving the men in green and gold and will do most of the kicking from the base, especially given his pairing with Damian Willemse. 

As such, much of the Springboks’ success will hinge on the accuracy of De Klerk’s execution. That could even extend to goal-kicking, should Willemse struggle in the department. 

Damian Willemse

Willemse’s a somewhat surprising choice to start at flyhalf after Manie Libbok’s satisfactory showing last weekend. The latter was solid overall and good off the tee in his first appearance in the starting line-up. 

As a regular and more reliable goal-kicker than Willemse, there were positives to be had in sticking with him, but then, playing the All Blacks in New Zealand’s a different challenge altogether and Willemse’s experience won out. 

The prodigious utility back did a good job in the No 10 jersey on the end-of-year tour last season and this is an opportunity for him to grow and show that he can be relied on in the role.

Makazole Mapimpi

After Arendse continued where he left off last season with a hat-trick last weekend, the pressure is mounting on Mapimpi to keep his place in the starting XV. 

The 32-year-old has slowly been losing his grip on the No 11 jersey he’s made his own since 2018. While scoring tries isn’t all winging it is about, it is an important part of the job and Mapimpi had his driest Test season last year, managing just two touchdowns in 11 appearances. 

No one expects him to score a hat-trick against the All Blacks but he needs to show more fire, chase hard and look for work if the ball doesn’t come his way. If it does, he has to maximise every opportunity with his explosiveness and speed. 

Springbok team to face New Zealand: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Duane Vermeulen, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Manie Libbok.

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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