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Predicting the Springbok World Cup Squad: Forwards

Quintin van Jaarsveld takes a stab at predicting the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad that’s set to be announced on Tuesday.

Predicting Springbok World Cup Squad

Quintin van Jaarsveld takes a stab at predicting the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad that’s set to be announced on Tuesday.

The majority of the 33-man squad tasked with defending the Webb Ellis Cup is set in stone with as many as 23 members of the triumphant 2019 group likely to be retained. 

Competition for the remaining places is stiff, with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber being spoiled for choice but having to find the perfect balance. 

Composition-wise, I’m predicting an 18/15 forwards/backs split. These are the forwards I’m expecting to be picked to power the charge up front:


Steven Kitshoff

A true modern-day front rower, Kitshoff’s mobility and work rate across the park, along with his unrivalled pilfering prowess at the breakdown and leadership qualities are added layers of brilliance on top of his powerful scrummaging, which make him one of the leading looseheads in world rugby.

Frans Malherbe

The cornerstone of the Springbok scrum, Malherbe’s name is one of the first to make the team sheet. A battle-hardened titan, he’s a tormenter at scrum time, does the donkey work in rucks and mauls and is a strong pillar defender. The veteran’s worth his considerable weight in gold.

Ox Nche

Initially named to start in the Rugby Championship opener against Australia, Nche suffered a pectoral injury that ruled him out of the tournament but he’s set to recover in time for the World Cup. The popular Sharks star has developed into a quality Test prop over the last two years and seamlessly rotates with Kitshoff. 

Vincent Koch

Koch can perhaps be best described as a bankable brute, one of the backup options at Nienaber’s exposal that other international coaches must be envious of. He’s a tried-and-tested campaigner who delivers whether he’s asked to make an impact off the bench or given the odd opportunity to start.

Trevor Nyakane

After being part of the squad and being iced out since the end-of-year tour last season despite having no apparent fitness issues, Nyakane finally returned to Test action last weekend. As a world-class swing prop who has won Tests for the Springboks and has 59 caps to his name, he has plenty of value to add.


Malcolm Marx

The best hooker in the world by some margin, Marx is an absolute juggernaut with his physical dominance, exemplary set-piece play and loose forward-like ball-poaching skills. A player of his rare class should start every match at the global showpiece. 

Bongi Mbonambi

A powerhouse with extraordinary explosiveness, Mbonambi hits the ball up like a truck and jackknifes ball carriers with dominant hits. His mental make-up is that of a dog of war who’s willing to go to the gutters, as he famously remarked during the British & Irish Lions series, making him a fierce fixture in the Springbok pack.

Joseph Dweba

Dweba’s similar to Mbonambi in that he’s a force of nature, but he lacks the veteran’s consistency, especially when it comes to his lineout throwing. I, for one, would go with the versatile Deon Fourie to fill a utility role like Schalk Brits did in 2019, but I sense Nienaber will give Dweba the nod.


Eben Etzebeth

The face of the Springboks’ brutal brand of rugby. The youngest Bok centurion in history brings unmatched physicality to the pack and is the most complete player to ever don the green and gold No 4 jersey. As occasion skipper, he’s a valued member of the leadership group and an all-around pillar of strength.

Lood de Jager

De Jager struggled to get out of the blocks in the Rugby Championship but the Springbok coaches know what they have in the 30-year-old, a kingpin who runs the lineout like clockwork and disrupts the opposition’s set-piece with his code-cracking nous and athleticism. He also covers acres of space with his long strides and good gas tank.

RG Snyman

Snyman’s finally enjoying an injury-free run and it comes at the perfect time for him and the Springboks. A uniquely gifted skyscraper, his Harlem Globetrotter-like offloading skills add unpredictability and an extra gear to the tight five, while he’s a seasoned lineout general.

Franco Mostert

A dual dynamo equally adept at lock and flank. A workhorse who relentlessly clatters into rucks and stays in the face of the opposition with unwavering intensity, Mostert’s played most of his Test rugby over the last two years in the back row and provides invaluable cover in the second row.

Loose forwards:

Siya Kolisi

Fears that the Springbok captain would miss the World Cup have been allayed with Kolisi making good progress since undergoing knee surgery in April. His absence was especially felt in the Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks, which highlighted just how important his leadership is.

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The 2019 World Player of the Year showed against the Wallabies in Pretoria there’s plenty of life in him yet. He’s still as industrious and impactful as his younger rivals if not more so, and his reputation as a decorated hardman strikes extra unspoken fear into the hearts of the opposition. Like Mostert, he’s a hybrid who can slot into the second row if required. 

Jasper Wiese

Wiese’s still a polarizing figure in the squad. One-half of the Springbok fan base believes he’s made the No 8 jersey, which he’s worn for the most part since 2021, his own with his dynamism, while the other half feels he lacks the requisite rugby IQ at Test level. Either way, as the first-choice eighthman, he’s assured of his spot in the squad.

Kwagga Smith

There are times when Smith fails to punch above his weight, like against the All Blacks in Auckland, but he’s been the preferred fetcher since Francois Louw retired after the 2019 World Cup and his overall body of work warrants him his place on the plane to France. A livewire and scavenger supreme, he scratches and claws for every inch.

Duane Vermeulen

The Man of the Match of the 2019 World Cup final has this year silenced those who’d said he’s past his expiration date, proving himself to be a crafty and consistent colossus for Munster and the Springboks, including as captain in the Rugby Championship wins over the Wallabies and Pumas, to cement his place in the squad.

Marco van Staden

Evan Roos is a rampaging star on the rise and could feature in his first World Cup at 23 years of age, which would make him the youngest Bok forward if the coaches opt for a third No 8. However, with there being some risk surrounding Kolisi’s fitness and with Smith’s ability to play eighthman, I sense they’re going to opt for an extra opensider in Van Staden. 


Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, Trevor Nyakane, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Joseph Dweba, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese, Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Marco van Staden.

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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